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Archive for July 5, 2012

Health check, colonoscopy now on itinerary

Mr Johnson Tan (standing) with his friends on one of their food trips to Malaysia. He had a colonoscopy, gastroscopy and an eyelid operation done in Malaysia. — PHOTO: HMI

Good food and shopping had been the reasons for the trips to Malaysia by a group of friends.

Then those in the group heard about how they could go for health screening at the Singapore-run hospitals there as well when they were on holiday. And they did so.

Now, at least one of them has gone beyond that.

Mr Johnson Tan, 56, a businessman, has undergone an eyelid operation as well as colonoscopy and gastroscopy, which are procedures to examine the colon and the stomach using a scope.

He is especially pleased with the results of his eyelid operation.

As he aged, his eyelids sagged and his eyelashes were poking into his corneas. ‘Doctors told me I needed an operation. But in Singapore, I procrastinated,’ he said.

Then he was recommended to see a plastic surgeon at Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca. ‘At first, I was uneasy. But the doctor was Singapore-trained and had practised in Singapore before,’ said Mr Tan.

In July last year, he decided he would do the procedure when he visited Malacca with his friends. He was on holiday and he had the time, he thought. It took the doctor about an hour to operate on both his eyes and his eyelash problem was fixed.

‘Back in Singapore, I went to see an ophthalmologist and he said the Mahkota doctor did a good job,’ he said. The colonoscopy and gastroscopy also went smoothly.

The group of friends found it convenient to go to the hospital as they usually stayed at the Holiday Inn when they travelled to Malacca.

‘It’s next to the hospital. We just have to stroll over in the morning to get our health checks and treatment,’ Mr Tan said.

His friends, Mr Alfred Ong, 56, and his wife Madam Cecelia Soh, 53, were also happy with the service at Mahkota. They went together with him for health screening in January last year.

Mr Ong and his wife found it convenient to make an appointment through e-mail, and also found the trip ‘very well organised’ and the tests ‘comprehensive’.

The journey there was a breeze as transport was provided by Mahkota Medical Centre from Singapore directly to the centre.

Madam Soh, who co-owns a business with her husband, said: ‘When we arrived there, I found the place to be clean, hygienic and welcoming.’ The entire screening process was well coordinated, with seamless transitions between tests, she added.

After completing all the tests, they adjourned to a lounge for coffee. Within 30 minutes, a doctor explained their test results to them.

‘Upon hearing that our health is okay, we happily proceeded to a sumptuous lunch and shopping at Malacca Centre,’ said Madam Soh.

‘The trip also offered us a short break to enjoy the beauty of Malacca, a historical place with delicious nyonya food.’

Ng Wan Ching

-StraitsTimes

Body contouring and a holiday with girlfriend

Mr Paul Sykes and his girlfriend, Ms Alison Chan, at Mahkota Medical Centre’s in-house cafe after his treatment session. — PHOTOS: HEALTH MEDICAL INTERNATIONAL

At 44, Mr Paul Sykes found himself struggling just a little to keep up with his Singaporean girlfriend’s fitness, limberness and slimness.

The Briton, who has lived and worked here for four years, exercised almost daily, in a bid to trim down an expanding waistline.

While the rest of his body, especially his limbs, became toned and slim, his stomach stubbornly refused to budge.

‘Then my girlfriend told me gently that it might be good if I had some help,’ he said.

The director of branding consultancy Sentient Partners looked for medical help – a non-invasive procedure called body contouring that uses ultrasound to break up the fatty acids in the cells. The destroyed adipose cells, a mixture of water and fat, are then removed through the lymphatic system to reduce the amount of fat in the body.

He picked Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca, Malaysia, to have the procedure done. It opened its aesthetic centre in September last year.

This was all because of a positive experience he had two years earlier with Mahkota Medical Centre’s sister hospital, the Regency Specialist Hospital (RSH) in Johor Baru, Malaysia.

Both hospitals are run by Singapore-based Health Management International (HMI).

The avid sportsman had torn his Achilles tendon while playing futsal.

In severe pain, he went to a restructured hospital here, hoping to get some quick medical help.

Instead, he found himself waiting three hours before someone told him that it would be a couple of days before he could see an orthopaedic surgeon.

‘I was feeling quite upset when I remembered that I had met someone from HMI at an event. I had the person’s name card, so I called and asked if he could help,’ he said.

His HMI contact agreed to do so. The next day, it sent a chauffeur- driven, multi-purpose vehicle to pick him up from his home.

‘I was driven in quick time to RSH, where the surgeon said he could operate on me that very day,’ he said.

He was operated on and stayed in hospital for two nights.

‘It was very good service. And the icing on the cake was that they picked up my girlfriend the next day and brought her to me at RSH. That meant a lot to me, to have a loved one nearby when I was undergoing medical treatment,’ he said.

His girlfriend, Ms Alison Chan, 38, a facilities and business executive, had not been able to accompany him there on the first day as she had to work.

‘They even found her a room in the hospital to sleep in for free,’ he said.

He went to RSH two more times for physiotherapy after surgery.

Each time, he was driven there in the morning, had his physiotherapy and was back at his desk at 2pm.

Last month, he travelled to Malacca with his girlfriend to start the first of his four body-contouring sessions.

‘After my experience with RSH, I was sold. To be picked up from my doorstep and be driven to the hospital in Malaysia is better than trying to get to a hospital in Singapore by myself,’ he said.

And he also got to have a little holiday with his girlfriend.

‘The great thing is that the distance is close enough that I could go up on a Sunday, get my treatment done on Monday and then be driven back. So all I needed was one day’s leave,’ he said.

Ms Chan said she was looking forward to seeing a fitter Mr Sykes soon.

‘They measured Paul’s waistline before and after treatment. And we could see the difference in measurement after an hour’s treatment,’ she said.

‘It was a truly pleasant way for this treatment to be done and economical too.’

-StraitsTimes

Shop & Feast… then get treatment at hospital in Malaysia

By Ng Wan Ching
More Singaporeans are travelling across the Causeway for not only health checks, but also operations, including dental and gynaecologic procedures

Mr Johnson Tan and his wife (first two in the right row) enjoying grilled seafood on a trip to Malacca where he also did screening tests and an eyelid procedure. — PHOTOS: HEALTH MEDICAL INTERNATIONAL

Many Singaporeans travel to Malaysia to enjoy the food and shopping there.

Now, more are also going there for health care – and not just health screening.

As Singaporeans and permanent residents have been allowed, since March 2010, to draw on their compulsory medical savings Medisave for treatment in accredited hospitals across the Causeway, more have been going for operations – at least in two Singapore-owned hospitals. These include obstetric and gynaecologic, orthopaedic and dental surgery.

Marketing efforts by the accredited hospitals have also helped to raise awareness of their services and encouraged the numbers to grow.

Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca has had a 25 per cent increase since March 2010 in the number of Singapore patients, said a spokesman.

It has already seen more than 600 Singapore patients so far this year, more than the 500 in 2010 and 570 last year. It treats about 250,000 patients a year, including more than 60,000 patients from outside Malaysia.

Patients from Singapore go there for a variety of medical needs, with the top three being health screening, delivery of babies and dental cases, said its spokesman.

Training consultant Choo Wee Meng, 45, had laser treatment for his face and root-canal treatment there this year. He is now considering going there for sinus surgery as well.

The bachelor, who is happy with the results of his treatment, said: ‘As far as I am concerned, the standard there is dependable. It’s certainly up to my expectations. Of course, it helps to know that the centre is run by Singaporeans.’

Other common procedures that Singapore patients go across the Causeway for include cataract surgery; ear, nose and throat procedures, such as sinus surgery; orthopaedic surgery, including knee replacement; hysterectomy (womb removal) and ureteric stenting, in which a thin tube is inserted into the ureter to prevent or treat obstruction of urine from the kidneys.

The centre is also seeing growing demand for screening tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan for the heart, which uses X-rays and computers to create detailed images that allow doctors to see diseased arteries; and colonoscopy, in which a flexible tube is used to check for abnormalities in the internal lining of the colon and rectum.

The hospital is owned and operated by Singapore private health-care group Health Management International (HMI), which also owns and runs Regency Specialist Hospital (RSH) in Johor Baru.

RSH has seen an even sharper increase of 150 per cent in the number of Singapore patients travelling there for treatment since March 2010.

It sees more than 1,000 Singapore patients a year, up from more than 400 Singapore patients in 2010.

The top three health-care requests by Singapore patients there are health screening; obstetric and gynaecologic procedures; and endoscopy, including colonoscopy and gastroscopy, which uses a scope inserted through the mouth to examine the stomach.

Under the rules relaxed in 2010, patients who are residents in Singapore can tap on their Medisave for day surgery and hospitalisation in overseas hospitals that have an approved working arrangement with a Medisave-accredited institution here.

The attending doctor here has to certify the patient’s condition and the necessity of treatment, before referring the patient to such an overseas hospital.

So far, only two private health-care providers – HMI and Parkway Pantai – have been allowed to refer patients who want to use Medisave to their hospitals in Malaysia.

This liberalisation of Medisave, combined with lower costs, makes it more attractive for a few of their patients to travel to Malaysia for health care, said the HMI spokesman.

‘Medisave cases – an average of about 40 a year – make up a small proportion of the total number of cases. The majority of Medisave cases are for obstetrics (deliveries),’ she said.

LOWER COST

Prices at both hospitals are, on average, 50 to 80per cent cheaper than those in Singapore, mainly due to lower land, building and labour costs.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Singapore said the ability to use Medisave for elective hospitalisation overseas gives Singaporeans more options and helps them stretch their Medisave dollars.

It helps that the hospitals accredited for Medisave use are Singapore-run and are credible, she said.

One Singaporean medical student even travelled to Mahkota Medical Centre for a week-long internship.

Ms Evelyn Wong, 21, a third-year student from the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, wanted to see a different spectrum of patients there.

Another perk for patients is the chance to have a holiday as well.

But these are not the only reasons for the spurt in the number of Singapore patients at these two hospitals.

The hospitals owned by Parkway Pantai did not seem to have a similar increase in the number of patients from Singapore.

Since the liberalisation of Medisave to pay for medical treatment at certain hospitals in Malaysia, the number of Singapore patients referred to Parkway Pantai’s hospitals in Malaysia has remained stable, said a spokesman.

‘Most of them are maternity cases,’ she said.

The group, which owns and operates two Gleneagles hospitals in Kuala Lumpur and Penang and nine Pantai hospitals in six Malaysian states, declined to provide any figures.

Traditionally, these hospitals have been serving mainly patients residing in Malaysia, said the spokesman.

Overall, the number of patients from Singapore who use their Medisave in Malaysia is much smaller than the number going there for treatment.

The number of patients from Singapore who used their Medisave in Malaysian hospitals was 69 between March and December 2010, the Ministry of Health said.

Last year, the number was 138.

These patients include both Singapore citizens and permanent residents, who make up the majority.

The increase in Singapore patient numbers at HMI hospitals is mainly due to marketing efforts, including tie-ups with associations and corporate groups, and recommendations by patients to others, said its spokesman.

‘Patients get to enjoy a weekend trip, spending time with family and friends, with shopping and eating thrown in, while they are there getting a procedure done,’ she said.

An added sweetener, said many patients, is the two-way multi-purpose vehicle transport provided by both Mahkota Medical Centre and RSH for their patients travelling from Singapore since March 2010.

Parkway Pantai does not provide transport for patients from Singapore, where it runs four private hospitals.

FACILITIES BEING UPGRADED

Both hospital groups are giving people living in Singapore more reasons to cross the border.

Mahkota Medical Centre has just completed a RM7.2 million (S$2.88million) upgrading of its facilities.

In the last few months, it has launched its newly renovated dental centre and health-screening centre, as well as a new aesthetic centre headed by a full-time plastic surgeon and two general practitioners.

It has budgeted RM5 million more for further upgrading in the next two years.

Parkway Pantai is building the 300-bed Gleneagles Medini Hospital in the Iskandar region in Johor Baru, which is slated to start operations by the end of 2014.

‘It is expected to attract patients from within and outside Malaysia,’ said its spokesman.

wanching@sph.com.sg

Transport to Malacca and accommodation there were paid by Health Management International.

-StraitsTimes

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