Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Medical Care is not healthcare

In his commentary "How S'prore can ride the coming healthcare revolution (Today 14th May 2015). Dr. Jeremy Lim has rightly highlighted the problem of healthcare that is marketed  with a fee-for-service payment model.  We do indeed need a healthcare revolution if we want our citizens to enjoy good health to a ripe old age.

Dr. Lim had also pointed out that insurers are becoming more concerned about improving health and health promotion than about only sickness cure. Unfortunately, if the incomes of medical care providers are dependent on the sickness behavior of the patients, such providers will tend to pay lip service to health promotion. In fact, the training of doctors is directed towards diagnosing and treating diseases rather than health promotion.

We need to recognize that medical care does not lead to health - it is a misrepresentation to see our medical services as health care.  Our increasing need for medical care means that we are an unhealthy nation.  

True health does not lie in the hands of doctors. Indeed, the present Ministry of Health should be renamed the Ministry of Medical Services. 

The real Ministry of Health lies in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Health Promotion Board, the family service centres and all the other agencies involved in promoting ahealthy lifestyle.

The healthcare revolution must also change Singaporeans attitude towards suffering, death and dying. We must overcome our fear of suffering and death, which will come to each of us sooner or later, by learning to love ourselves and our fellow human beings. Perfect love casts out fear.

We must make hospice and palliative care the cornerstone of our medical education and imbue our healthcare providers with the spirit of hospice care enunciated by the founder, Dame Cicely Saunders:

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

Unless we learn how to die, we cannot truly live. When we live fully, we will not be afraid of death or suffering and will not seek to add years to our lives, but rather to add life to our years. 

In doing so,  we will bring down the cost of medical care and enjoy good health in our old age.

(Published in Voices, Today, 23 May 2015)

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