He Ting Ru: Some residents feel they have to go through many hoops in order to get help

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon pointed out in Parliament on Monday (July 4) that Workers’ Party MP He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) had made an unfair characterization of Singapore’s society as being uncaring in a speech she made on February 28. 

He added that Ms He had not given the government agencies sufficient time to respond to the case she cited.

“What does it say about us as a society?” Ms He had asked in her speech.

This was concerning a senior who had asked doctors to decrease the dosage of medicines he had been prescribed, as the full dosage was unaffordable for him.

Ms He responded by saying that the broader point is that some of the residents she has spoken to feel that they have to jump through many hoops in order to get the help they need, a process which makes them feel “demoralised” and even “a bit humiliated.”

In April, Dr Koh, who was then Senior Minister of State for Health, already asked for a clarification on the matter.

Ms He explained that the resident she had spoken to, referred to as Mr H, said he could not afford the medicines needed to manage the chronic conditions he suffered from even if had already tapped his MediSave as well as other subsidies.

To help him, Ms He made an appeal to the Central Provident Fund Board.

Dr Koh, who reviewed the case, said on July 4 that he was satisfied with the response of the healthcare support system toward Mr H.

The resident had not followed his doctor’s advice to seek the help of a social worker, and was unaware that he had other possibilities to receive support.

Dr Koh added that Mr H could have received a 62.5 per cent subsidy on his medicines under the Medication Assistance Fund, which he now does.

The appeal Ms He made on his behalf has helped, with the withdrawal limit under the MediSave Chronic Disease Management Programme upped from $700 to $800 per year.

But Dr Koh’s bone of contention appeared to be the fact that Ms He talked about the man’s case in her speech on Feb 28, just two working days after she filed his appeal on Feb 24, before the government could respond.

Dr Koh said, ”The picture painted was one of a society where seniors are forced to cut down on the necessary and essential medication dosages simply because they cannot afford it. Implicit is also the suggestion that this state of affairs is due to a government that is not in touch with the ground or uncaring.”

“That is not a fair characterisation. And it’s also not fair to the agencies on the ground,” he added.

Ms He answered back by saying she had had no intentions of badmouthing Mr H’s doctors but added that how to reach residents may be improved.

“If the systems are working, if the systems are flexible, do our residents know that they are there? 

How do we get the message out to our residents, rather than have them feel we are uncaring, that the system doesn’t care for them, that they have to really work for it, that they have to really be humiliated? This is how they feel.” /TISG

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