Monday, December 10, 2012

Patients 'stumble' around Eye Center

If our government is serious about making S'pore more elderly friendly to cater for our aging population, they should be looking into local healthcare providers to see if they are up to the mark.

Take for example our national eye center - SNEC (Singapore National Eye Center) which has large elderly patient base. Currently the layout of SNEC is a safety concern for elderly patients with eye diseases and poor vision.

Their clinics are on the ground floor, while the eye test rooms are located on the 3rd floor. Patients are to register at the ground floor clinic, then they will be send to the 3rd story to do the eye test(s) if required. After that, patients will return to the ground floor clinic to see the doctor.

Elderly normally have mobility problem and SNEC make these folks struggle around just to consult the doctor. Just the other day, I saw an  elderly man who is bend double and he was asked to report to the 3rd floor for his eye test. Out of concern, I asked the nurse to get him a wheelchair. The reply was, "He can manage."  The man shuffled along slowly with his walking stick, supported by his family member on one side and the center attendant on the other side. Can't SNEC provides wheelchair for such patient, even if they still can walk ? Must they be paralysis before they are eligible to sit on a wheelchair?

To compound the issue further, patients' eyes are often dilated before the test. So their already poor vision becomes even worst. SNEC expect the patients to stumble around the eye center from one floor to the next and back again !

The poor layout at SNEC resulted in manpower problem for them as well.  As some patients may be new to the center, the practice is that an attendant will lead the patient up to the test rooms. However, patients have find their way back to the clinic themselves due to SNEC manpower shortage.

That day when I was there, seems like they did not even have enough attendant to guide the patients to the 3rd story. A nurse tried to give direction to a patient on how to go to test center. The patient looked worried and was told to ask around when she was on the 3rd floor.

Then the nurse tired another strategy, she waited until there were 3 patients before asking the attendant to bring them up to the test center. Hello - so the test center medical staff are idling around while waiting for patients to be sent up to them. Is this productive ?

Due to the poor layout, besides safety concern, it is also non productive and time consuming. No wonder the average consultation time at SNEC is around 2 hours ! Should not SNEC be more patient centric?

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