Well, not that you can technically avoid it but here’s why it’s really troublesome if you contract the disease in Singapore.
My aunt was recently down with a lung infection and was warded in Tan Tock Seng hospital for a week. She had Pleural Effusion (fluid around her lungs) and had to undergo a surgery to remove the fluid.
When we visited her in hospital, doctors said her condition was non-infectious so we didn’t need to put on masks.
She recovered within a week and was allowed to discharge from hospital.
However, she has to visit the polyclinic everyday and be monitored by a nurse while taking her medication.
It takes her about one hour to travel to the polyclinic and less than 15 minutes to complete her medication (including the queuing time).
Most of the patients she meet also grumble about not being able to consume their medication at home and their condition are also non-infectious.
The problem is…my aunt is in her sixties and her knees haven’t been kind to her. She avoids climbing steps as that aggravates the pain in her knees.
Once, she almost lost her balance and fell while alighting from a bus when she was on her way home from the polyclinic.
She decided to meet her MP and appeal to take medication at home instead.
I found out later that there was a small strain of Tuberculosis (TB) in her infection but it was probably so insignificant that doctor diagnosed it as non-infectious and allowed her to live life as per normal.
If you look at the letter, the daily visits to the polyclinic is considered as the “Directly Observed Treatment” under Ministry of Health’s Tuberculosis control programme.
My understanding is that the healthcare professionals are worried that patients with Tuberculosis will not take their medication regularly. This causes the infection to be harder to treat and it might become transmittable.
According to my aunt, the nurses just watch her take her medication and do not actually conduct any tests to “observe” the treatment.
In a survey conducted amongst 356 TB patients a few years ago, nearly one in two caused them to take part in fewer social activities and close to three in four experienced negative feelings like depression during the treatment!
Some even had to quit their jobs!
Now I fully understand the good intentions of this TB control programme – it’s really for the greater good.
But how do we balance necessity and compassion?
Are doctors able to assess on a case by case basis and make exceptions for patients whose conditions are not severe at all?
No doubt that we have top-notch healthcare system in Singapore but the fundamentals of good healthcare is to ensure that patients feel cared for.
Surely with advanced technology, we can find a way to enforce and be certain that a patient is taking his or her necessary medication?