New Paper: Wrong to make me sign a form

Sick with dengue fever, Workers’ Party MP chose to wait at an emergency ward though it was full. He was then asked to sign an indemnity form.

By Clarence Chang
clarence@sph.com.sg


They said if you want us to treat you, you must sign. Otherwise you’ll be turned away. I was very sick, so I said ‘OK lah, whatever.’
– Mr Low on having to sign TTSH’s indemnity form

Picture: BERITA HARIAN

IT’S 3am.

You’re burning up.

The thermometer reads 40 deg C.

Your worried spouse rushes you to the nearest hospital.

The first response as soon as you get there: Sorry, we’re full. You’ll need to go somewhere else.

No, you protest. I’m here, and I’m sick. I’ll wait.

Well, if you insist on staying, the hospital says, you must sign an indemnity form which clears them of any fault if something happens to you.

Eventually, you relent.

This was what happened to Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang one night in mid-June.

The hospital: Tan Tock Seng (TTSH), Singapore’s second largest.

The time: Yes, 3am.

Mr Low told The New Paper he’d come down with a 40-degree fever that evening.

So his wife accompanied him to TTSH’s Accident and Emergency department to see if he needed to be “admitted”.

Problem was, despite the late hour, hundreds of other patients were also waiting.

“The first thing they showed me was a notice saying ‘Full House’. My feeling was: I could have dengue,” recounted Mr Low.

“But they thought I probably only had a bad flu, so they discharged me.”

The TTSH doctor, however, did refer him to the Communicable Diseases Centre for a follow-up test two days later.

After a second round of checks, his worst fears came true. It was dengue.

STAYED FOR FEW DAYS

Mr Low was immediately admitted to TTSH, where he stayed for “a few days”.

Thankfully, less than a week later, the Workers’ Party Secretary-General had recovered well enough to go home.

“The CEO (of TTSH) Dr Lim Suet Wun even sent me a bouquet of flowers,” Mr Low recalled, stressing that he had “no personal complaints” against the hospital.

But while he was there, people who recognised him related their concerns to him about overcrowding, he told The New Paper.

“Some who remembered they saw me there, even e-mailed me! Their feedback confirmed my own observations.”

Observations which led Mr Low to file three “public interest” questions in Parliament yesterday on TTSH’s bed shortage, its A&E department’s standard of care, and his biggest bugbear – those dreaded indemnity forms.

DIDN’T SEEM RIGHT

“I’ve never seen it before,” he told The New Paper.

“I was puzzled. It didn’t seem quite right.

“They said if you want us to treat you, you must sign. Otherwise you’ll be turned away.

“I was very sick, so I said ‘OK lah, whatever’.”

Before the House, Mr Low read out the words from the very form he’d signed when he went to TTSH for the first time: “I hereby confirm that I have chosen to seek medical attention at TTSH, despite having been informed that TTSH is currently experiencing a full house situation.

“Therefore I will not hold TTSH or any of its employees, servants or agents liable in any way whatsoever for any loss, bodily injury, mishap, accident, loss of life or property, arising directly or indirectly as a result or in connection with my consultation or treatment with TTSH.”

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