Forum: Stuck with high bill for cataract operation and follow-up visits

The Ministry of Health's response about subsidies for seniors is timely (Pioneer, Merdeka seniors referred to public specialists by Chas clinics do get subsidies, Dec 13).

In the past year, my mother has been treated for her cataract. She was diagnosed with the condition after a visit to Ngee Ann Polytechnic last July and from then on, my aged parents obtained referrals from Queenstown Polyclinic to benefit from subsidised treatment at the National University Hospital (NUH) Eye Centre.

My father has been very upset over what he says is overcharging by NUH. When I looked into the issue, I was shocked to learn that they had incurred more than $23,000 for my mother's cataract operation and subsequent clinical follow-up.

After months of discussion with NUH, we are nowhere near any resolution and are still unclear on a few points.

NUH told us that my mother had lost her subsidised patient status when she selected a higher-grade lens - which she was advised to, to avoid the need for reading glasses after the operation - and when she elected to choose her own doctor.

Having been referred by a polyclinic for her first visit to NUH, how would my mother know which doctor to choose?

NUH says financial counselling was adequately conducted, with all consent forms duly signed by my mother. We thought the forms signed were routine indemnity forms for the operation. My mother would not have knowingly signed forms to exclude herself as a subsidised patient and be treated as a full-paying private patient instead.

The estimated costs to be incurred and presented to us did not come close to the full charges paid so far. What was not addressed was how much every subsequent follow-up visit to NUH would cost, and at private patient rates too.

Ian Lee Chi Meng

Correction note: The picture used in an earlier version of the article was not related to the reader's feedback. We are sorry for this.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2019, with the headline 'Stuck with high bill for cataract operation and follow-up visits'. Print Edition | Subscribe