Clinics have heavy patient load because of tardy docs

General practitioners tend to have a bad habit of tardiness (GPs working fewer hours, but seeing more patients: Poll; July 11).

The clinic may open at 8.30am, but the doctor arrives only at 10am and even before he starts, there is already a backlog. He is obliged to see all the patients and so ends his morning consultation hours late.

This results in the afternoon consultation hours being pushed back, leading to a build-up of patients and a late end again.

This tardiness on the part of the doctor is not only counterproductive, but also misleading and wastes patients' time and effort, especially for those who need to rush back to work.

Doctors claim that they turn up late in the morning because they worked late the night before, or that they had to attend to house calls after the clinic closed.

This is a flawed argument. It suggests that doctors have poor or non-existent schedule planning.

The lack of a functional appointment system is another factor. The system of walk-in appointments should be reviewed and modified.

If doctors adhere to their opening hours and stop accepting patients, say, 30 minutes before closing time, like polyclinics do, then there is little need for them to work late.

Queue numbers should be issued in advance, and stopped when the morning, afternoon or evening quota is reached.

Of course, urgent cases should be given priority. House calls should be considered part of their overtime.

If the clinic is always crowded, then another doctor should be employed to avoid overstretching the doctor and resulting in clinical errors. Clinic assistants can be trained to perform triage of cases.

This may entail higher manpower costs, but this can be managed with careful and sophisticated cost planning.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'Clinics have heavy patient load because of tardy docs'. Print Edition | Subscribe