Patient could not get place in SGH, hit with $78k bill

Family seeks donations to cover security guard's medical expenses in private hospital

Mr Thomas Lukose suffered a heart attack on Sept 12 while on duty at Gleneagles Hospital. He is now home after an operation on Sept 16. PHOTO: GIVE.ASIA

A crowdfunding appeal by the family of a security guard who had collapsed at Gleneagles Hospital has been circulating on social media.

Besides the request to help pay his bill of about $80,000, the family claims Mr Thomas Lukose, 55, could not get a place in a public hospital.

The appeal on the website says: "We have been trying to get him transferred to SGH (Singapore General Hospital) where the cost will be lower, however the efforts have not been successful as there isn't an ICU (intensive care unit) slot available, and it will be risky to keep waiting any longer. Therefore, we have no choice but to go ahead with operation at Gleneagles."

The situation, however, is a lot more complex.

Mr Lukose suffered a heart attack on Sept 12 at Gleneagles Hospital while on night duty as a security guard and was taken to the hospital's emergency department immediately.

The next day, his family wanted him transferred to the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) because his insurance only covers him for subsidised care, but they faced two stumbling blocks.

Mr Lukose's condition was so severe that he was put on a ventilator and needed intensive care. But the NHCS had no spare bed in its intensive care unit, so there was no possibility of an immediate transfer.

Dr Lee Suen Ming, chief executive officer of Gleneagles Hospital (GEH), said: "After the first transfer request was unsuccessful, doctors at GEH proceeded with the patient's treatment plan to ensure the best clinical outcomes possible for the patient."

An NHCS spokesman told The Straits Times: "The transfer could not be effected immediately as there was no available bed in our CCU (coronary care unit) then."

His condition was also not stable.

The spokesman added: "The doctors from Gleneagles Hospital and NHCS discussed Mr Lukose's medical condition on Sept 13 morning and felt that Mr Lukose was too ill to undergo immediate surgery, although this could be considered later. NHCS made arrangements to take over his care and a bed was offered to Mr Lukose on Sept 15. We had available surgical slots and would have been able to perform the surgery."

Dr Sriram Shankar, the cardiothoracic surgeon who treated Mr Lukose, said that "he was critically ill and it would have been risky to transfer". He added that the condition was such that "treatment needed to be expedited".

Dr Shankar operated on him at Gleneagles Hospital on Sept 16. Mr Lukose needed open-heart surgery with three coronary artery bypass grafts.

Dr Shankar added: "He made an excellent, uneventful recovery."

Although Dr Shankar did not charge for his services, Mr Lukose, who is now at home, has been billed for $78,000 by the hospital. His work insurance will cover $13,500. The rest has to come from his medical insurance, Medisave or cash.

The crowdfunding website shows that only about $16,000 has been donated so far.

But Dr Lee said last night: "The hospital is pursuing all avenues to alleviate his financial burden."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline Patient could not get place in SGH, hit with $78k bill. Subscribe