quality of healthcare

As most Singaporeans would know, there are different classes of rooms in hospitals which vary in price. Of course, the price for a night’s stay in a single room is more dear than a shared room. Besides the difference in price, what other things do people expect to be different for each class of room? What do you expect if you paid more for a higher class room?

For me, I think that the biggest and most obvious difference would be personal space. Noise level and exclusive use of amenities (e.g. wash basin, loo, etc.) comes hand in hand with personal space. Less people sharing the room = less noise and more exclusive use of amenities. Quite logical right? Oh, and if I paid more, food choice for meals might be better?

However, there’s one thing I think should not differ no matter the class of room a patient is staying in. That is the quality of service and care from healthcare givers.

I am able to accept that the level of attention could be different because the healthcare giver to patient ratio might be different for each class, but I cannot understand when the service quality is also different. Don’t doctors and nurses take an oath to give the best care they can to patients? Why then should the quality of care be different?

I ask this because a relative of mine was hospitalised and the attitude of the nurses was very different while he stayed in different classes of rooms. He initially opted for a two-bedder as it is cheaper than a single room.

Two incidents to note while he was in the two-bedder room:

  1. Nurses only dispensed medicine after taking his temperature.
  2. Doctor required a stool sample from him and said that nurses would assist to collect the sample. One of the nurses later “reminded” the relative’s wife that either she or the patient would have to collect the sample when the patient had to do the big one.

The second point is RIDICULOUS! How can the patient collect the sample on his own when he is feeling weak and at times can hardly stand without keeling over? If I was there and heard this, I wouldn’t hesitate to give that nurse a piece of my mind. First, the doctor clearly said that the nurses would assist to collect the sample. Second, yes, it is not the most glamorous of things to do when collecting a stool sample, but this is part and parcel of a healthcare giver’s job. Why would the hospital even hire you as a nurse if you’re unwilling to do such things?

My relative changed his mind and decided he wanted to stay in a single room after someone moved into the room. (Initially, he was the only patient in the room.) He needed the peace and quiet as he had to bear the discomfort of a pounding headache that came with his high temperature. The quality of service and care was noticeably different while he was in the single room.

  1. Nurses not only dispensed medicine after taking his temperature, they rushed to get ice packs to try and bring down his temperature.
  2. He only had the urge to do the big one while in the single room. Nurses assisted to collect the stool sample.

One could argue that the difference in attitude to assist in collecting the stool sample had nothing to do with the difference in class of room the patient was staying. It could be that the problem was just the attitude of THAT nurse. The other nurses would have assisted anyway. But how do you explain the first point?

Why? Just because he paid more for this room so he could have access to better care? Please…how much do ice packs cost? Why discriminate when ice packs don’t cost that much? Are you saying that the life and well-being of a patient staying in a single room is worth more than one who is staying in a shared room?

A life is a life. It is important no matter whether the patient is rich or poor. That’s how I see it.

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