Personal experience: Getting hospitalised in Singapore

“You have liver inflammation.”

“It’s an estimated 36-50 hours wait for admission. Alternatively, you could opt for discharge but I need you to come back on close outpatient follow up.”

I was in shock.

My liver? 36 hours? More than a day? 50 hours?
I had never been hospitalised before and had always been relatively healthy, frequent gym-goer, never excessive with my diet.

I was still in a groggy state so I just stared at the doctor in disbelief and she understood my question.

“Yes, 36 hours. I have patients waiting here for 3 days but there is no bed.”

I looked around myself. I was in a stuffy tentage set up for suspected COVID patients in a certain government hospital. I was sitting on a plastic chair, attached to an IV drip. I have already been here for more than 3 hours with a high fever, alternating between chills and flushes, despite given medication. I had not been able to eat nor drink much for the past one week so I was very dehydrated and weak all over. But the nurses are busy so I could not even ask for a bed to rest; in fact I had been going around several stations on my own to do all sorts of tests. There was no way I could wait there for three days.

So, in my groggy state, I opted for discharge and agreed to three separate outpatient appointments on different dates. It did not help that I was groggy because later, I found out that one of the three appointment letters was missing, and some medication was not given.

When I got home, I felt worse. I was vomiting, my fever got higher, and my rashes got worse.

Then I recalled I had my hospitalisation insurance that allowed me to go to private hospital.

Hence, I made my way to Mount Elizabeth hospital (Orchard). Upon reaching A&E, I was directed to a similar COVID tentage but this time with a mini room that had good ventilation and I could rest on the bed. My doctor came in after a short while and asked for the whole story, asking me questions and looking through my reports and medication carefully. He immediately advised and arranged admission for me.

Everything was efficient and comfortable from that point; the nurses guided me through every test and procedure, including the claim forms. I was feeling weak in my legs and could not walk very well so they wheeled me around. Even though I freaked out at having to draw eight tubes of blood immediately, which took a long time because I was very dehydrated, the nurses were caring and chatty so it was not as scary. That same night I was admitted, my fever just went higher and higher so I was really relieved I made the decision to be admitted so that I was in good care.

But that was not all. It took a whole month to diagnose the root cause of the problem. In the one month, my fever kept persisting amidst other new symptoms and my condition went through a rollercoaster as halfway through, my condition got better and worsened several rounds. In total, I had two hospital admissions, three specialist doctors looking after me and with many follow ups at frequent intervals because my liver functions had to be watched closely.

On hindsight, I could make these decisions easily because I knew I had my hospitalisation insurance to fall back on and even other insurances to depend on should this get even more serious/prolonged. Cost of treatment was not really on my mind as I knew they would be covered for, I was really looking out for what treatment would be best for myself. Eventually, my bills came to about $37,000 and were almost fully covered (I had to only pay $1,000 from my Medisave account).

In my everyday work with clients, I advised that having insurance is important as it would give them the financial flexibility to seek options.

This personal experience gave me an insight on what options we really need in the event of a sudden illness:

  • 1) How urgent do you want to know the root cause and severity of your condition?
  • 2) How long can you afford to be out of your work/usual life routine?
  • 3) How comfortable do you want to be when you are already unwell?

From this experience, I can say the hospitalisation insurance helped me on all three considerations:

On (1), how urgent do you want to know the root cause and severity of your condition?

  • A liver ultrasound was arranged on the same day I was admitted in the private hospital. I was so relieved when I learnt that the results showed there was no permanent damage on the liver. In comparison, at the government hospital, I was told I could not do the ultrasound immediately because it could only be arranged via another department.
  • It was not easy getting to the root cause because there were so many possibilities and in between, there were other infections that happened which disturbed the diagnosis too. My doctors sent my blood samples for all sorts of tests, ordered for several ultrasounds and biopsy, to find the root cause, all of which costs money but because it was all covered, I had no objections.
  • My follow ups were on a very frequent interval to observe my organ functions; at one point it was every other day. It proved to be very useful when my condition turned for the worse suddenly.

On (2), how long can you afford to be out of your work/usual life routine?

  • A longer treatment period does not just mean wasted time. Internally, my liver functions were weakening and at risk of permanent damage if still not treated. Hence it was a race against time to find the root cause soonest possible so that treatment could be prescribed.
  • At one point when my condition worsened whilst not in hospital, I could make a call to my attending doctor on a Sunday morning and he arranged for the appropriate treatment to reach me on the very day. I felt much better after that.
  • Mentally I was having insomnia and started to depend on sleeping pills because I was worrying. I could not get rested so I really just wanted to recover fully soonest possible.
  • Even with these frequent follow ups, it took me a total of seven months to fully recover. I cannot imagine if I had to wait longer between the follow ups, the whole ordeal would likely be even more prolonged.

On (3), how comfortable do you want to be when you are already unwell?

  • I could opt for the single bedder and my family preferred that because they were worried if I got exposed to any possible COVID patient (COVID case numbers were really high at that time).
  • My experience just at A&E in the two hospitals as above was drastically different, and I am aware that is only because the government hospital was so overwhelmed.
  • During my follow ups, my waiting time was kept short and I appreciated that because I was having fever chills in any air conditioned environment.

Thanks to my ability to choose my preferred options, today, I am back happy in my work and in the gym and able to resume normal activities with all my loved ones.

From now on, I would treat my insurance policies like a precious treasure and advise more to keep this treasure dearly.

Would you?

Important: The information and opinions in this article are for general information purposes only. They should not be relied on as professional financial advice. Readers should seek independent financial advice that is customised to their specific financial objectives, situations & needs. This advertisement or publication has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Published By:

Lim Yi Suan Eileen

Eileen grew up inspired by how her parents saved bit by bit, albeit with very little resources, to work towards a comfortable life and future for the family. Taking the first step in financial planning is really so crucial and yet also a very simple decision! 

 

Today, with the same passion, she works with many busy working professionals to get them started on their financial planning journey. She has come to know many of them are aware they should plan, but have no time to sort out all the confusing technical jargons and improper sales tactics, and hence are looking for someone honest and trustworthy to simplify the journey with them. She maintains honesty in every financial plan she recommends, making sure they are always in her clients’ best interest and keeps the recommendations easy to understand and exciting to follow.

 

In so doing, she treasures the trust her clients place in her and keeps in close contact with them. In the last ten over years, she has become a friend and close companion to her clients, journeying through different phases of life with them and suitably advising on their financials needs along the way. 

 

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