Saturday, September 27, 2008


(taken in Thailand, Oct 2007)

One week from today, Yvette will be arriving for her SECOND visit. I am really looking forward to seeing her and hanging out. Skype is awesome and it has definitely made living 1/2 a world away from all our friends and family a lot easier but there "ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Health Care in Singapore--Part III

(Please recall that all of my comments are based on experience. . . if you live in Singapore and have had a different experience, please leave a comment and let me know what health care has been like for you.)

The Doctor's Office
In Part I, I gave an brief overview of my "credentials" for reviewing the Singapore health system. In Part II, I talked about walk-in clinics. Today, I want to talk about the Doctor's Office. No, not the whole building, the doctor's actual office. The one you rarely see if you're a patient in the US.

For those that haven't experienced health care in America, here is a brief description of what to expect at an ordinary appointment. You check in with a receptionist and wait in a common waiting room until a nurse opens a door to the "back office" and calls your name. She then escorts you from the central waiting room to a generic exam room. When you arrive in the room, she takes your stats and finds out why you're there. She then (depending on the reason for your visit) tells you to strip down and dress in a paper gown, sit your buns on the cold examining table and wait for the doctor to come in. At that point, she disappears and you're left to undress, peruse the lame magazines, take your seat on the exam table and wait. And wait. And wait. Then, after you've finished reading all of the lame magazines and even a few of the brochures entitled things like "Facts about Nicotine" and "10 Signs You're at Risk for a Stroke", you hear a polite knock on the door and it opens before you have a chance to say "come in." The doctor gets right down to business. He goes over your symptoms, completes the exam, fills out a prescription and then asks if you have any more questions. But before you have a chance to formulate a reply, he is out the door again, leaving you to dress and show yourself out. This is, I will admit, a very efficient system for seeing a large number of patients in as little time possible. But, it isn't very personable.

No so in Singapore. In Singapore, the nurse calls your name and takes you in to the doctor's office. The doctor is seated at his desk and invites you to have a seat across from him. He asks a few questions and reviews your file. Then (depending on the reason for your visit) you step behind a curtain and undress, put on a covering and sit on the exam table. The doctor completes the exam, returns to his desk and waits for you to dress and return to your chair. After you've returned and he has explained his findings, he asks if there is anything else you want to discuss. At that point, he's at your mercy. Since you're the one who has to get up to leave, you hold the power. The appointment isn't over until you decide to get up and leave. It's a much different feeling. In a way, it's weird.

It's like meeting the Queen of England, and not standing when she enters the room. You definitely feel like you're breaking protocol. At my first appointment here, after the doctor asked if I had any questions (which I didn't), I just sat there, completely unsure of what I was supposed to do. I felt weird "dismissing" the doctor so I sat there, hoping the doctor would eventually kick me out. Finally, after a long and awkward pause, the doctor politely told me that whenever I was ready, I could go back out to the receptionist to schedule another appointment.

Granted, it isn't the most efficient system, but since doctors here in Singapore carry a much lighter patient load than in the US, it works. And, I, for one, am a fan! I love seeing the doctor in his natural habitat (the books and family pictures and stacks of papers). I love having to decide when the appointment is over. I feel like I'm in a Normal Rockwell Painting. . . only the doctor is Asian =)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Health Care in Singapore--Part II

(Click Here for Part I)

Hawker Doctors
One of the most convenient things about health care in Singapore are the numerous walk-in health clinics (aka Hawker Doctors because they are usually located in all the local shopping areas along with the food hawkers and mom-n-pop shops selling every sort of random item imaginable). These clinics aren't fancy, but they are reasonably reputable (for the most part) and cheap beyond all get-0ut. A visit to a GP will only set you back S$10-20 (US$6-15), including a prescription or two!

I don't prefer to use these hawker doctors but in a few instances, they have been an huge blessing. For things like sudden high fevers, ear aches, a bee sting reaction, and a horrible heat rash, the extended hours and the fact that we were able to walk in without an appointment made hawker doctors the perfect alternative. Not to mention, they are everywhere so the farthest we had to travel with our sick kid was only a bus stop or two.

Like I said, I wouldn't recommend going to just any hawker doctor, especially for important issues, but for most of those everyday illnesses where you already know what is wrong and just need a doctor to prescribe some meds, they are totally great.

Just be sure you find one whose Singlish is understandable.

Up next in the series: The Doctor's Office

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Health Care in Singapore--Part I

While I am certainly not an expert on Singapore's health care system (check out this article, or if you're really interested, read this book, to find out what the experts have to say), I do have a few observations based on my experiences over the last year--normal well-baby and not-so-well baby visits for Caleb over the last year, "shopping" for the right OB doctor to oversee my prenatal care, and giving birth to Annabelle.

One of the reasons I was open to moving to Singapore was the statistic I had read that Singapore had one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (update: as of 2008, it has THE lowest), much lower, in fact, that the US. So, while I didn't know much about Singapore, I was guessing that the medical care here was at least comparable, if not superior, to the care I could get in California. I have not been disappointed.

Singapore has a very healthy (pardon the pun) and extensive public health care system, however, because we have private insurance through our employer, we have not needed to access the public health care system. My observations are limited to the private health care system and a few visits to Hawker Doctors, which I will talk about next.

(To be continued. . . )

Monday, September 15, 2008

An Entrepreneur's Dream

Interested in small business? If so, check out this article. I was surprised to find that Singapore was sitting at #1 and the USA at #3.

Camping -- Singapore Style

I am still working on a post about the medical care here in Singapore, but in the mean time. . .

I thought you'd enjoy this picture of the campsites at East Coast Park. Notice the expressway in the background, as well as the high-rise apartment building. IF I were going to camp (which won't be any time soon), I think I'd at least want to camp somewhere where I wasn't listening to the drone of cars all night long. I guess the upside of camping Singapore style is that McDonalds, home of the S$.60 ice cream cone, is only a 3 minute walk from your tent's front door =)