I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly a “mountain turtle” when it comes to polyclinics. My last memory of a polyclinic visit was to the one at Bukit Merah when I was a kid. Somehow, I remembered it being a dingy and uncomfortable place. *shrug*

Last Saturday, I dropped by Sengkang Polyclinic that is run by SingHealth as a walk-in patient. Wanted to go early but my handphone alarm didn’t go off. Tsk. Ended up reaching there around 10:30am. Took a queue number, and was told to head to level two to register.

Registration

Reached the registration area, took a double look at the current queue number. Huh? A whooping 130 patients in front of me.

LOL. Cham liao – I’m in for a long wait – and, to clarify, I was expecting it because of the stories I’ve heard for the past 20 years. 6 registration counters were running. OK – decided to head to Compass One to grab a light breakfast and voila, by the time I was back, half the queue in front of me had gone by.

I settled down on a comfortable spot with little human traffic, plugged in my earphones with music blasting, and enjoyed some reading in the air-conditioned room. Hey, before I know it, it was my turn. Walked up to the registration counter and despite the hectic morning, I was greeted by a polite staff. Handed over my NRIC to her and after a little bit of clicking here and there, furrowed her brow and asked – “First time here ah?” as if I’m some alien. Haha. I wasn’t in the system at all. I sheepishly nodded, “Yah”.

Got myself registered in a couple of minutes, was handed an appointment card (haha so old school), plus another brand new queue number. Oh no. You mean that was just the queue to register myself?! At this point, it has already been an hour and fifteen minutes since I first reached the polyclinic.

Consultation

Luckily, I was wrong. I headed downstairs again, and waited outside the room I was assigned to. Surprise, surprise. My queue number went off after five minutes.

The doctor who I consulted with was a young chap, polite and cheerful. Perhaps rather fresh out of med-school? I told him my problems, got myself prescribed some medications, plus a referral to the hospital for a minor surgical procedure. “Changi or Khoo Teck Puat”? After looking at a sheet of paper pasted on the wall, he turned to me. “Khoo Teck Puat faster. October?”

With the referral letter in one hand, and the prescription in another, I headed out of the room after consultation and deposited the two in different trays. The third round of waiting began.

Pharmacy & Referral

Another fifteen minutes passed before my queue number echoed with a loud beep. I finally collected my medication. The referral letter took slightly longer. Eventually, the lady gave up and told me that the hospital will call/sms me directly for an appointment date.

“Oh, what about payment?”

“Please wait for your number.”

OMG wait again.

Payment

To be fair, I probably missed the part when I was told I can actually head for the self-payment kiosk and avoid the wait. Stupid me. Well, at least there was a pleasant surprise in store.

  • Consultation was $41.68
  • Medication was $3.64

This is probably on-par with what I’d pay if I visited my GP five minutes from home and perhaps a thirty minutes wait. But wait, because I’m a citizen of my lovely country, I’m entitled to government subsidy of $31.70 and they would absorb GST too.

  • Government Subsidy -$31.70

I ended up with a payment of $13.60 (after they rounded down and saved me 2 cents haha. Granted, the wait is incredible on a busy Saturday morning which probably took close to two hours in all. It is incredibly cheap as well, when compared to my past GP visits which always cost me $40+ to $60+ each time.

Some Thoughts

The system in place seemed fairly competent in terms of the process flow from registration right up to payment. I don’t know, maybe I have low expectations? They have certainly given it some thought. Mostly intuitive by nature and I didn’t have much troubles figuring out what to do. If I didn’t miss the self-payment thing, I could have saved a few minutes.

The major problem is the long wait which is brought on by the huge demand for affordable medical services. To be honest, despite the wait, it was in an air-conditioned holding area and it felt comfortable to me. Granted, I wasn’t too sick at all.

In two years time, a new polyclinic will open right beside my HDB and it will certainly help to relieve some demand from the northeast region of Singapore. If you’re at the stage in your life where time is a resource in abundance compared to money, polyclinics will certainly save you some moolah.

Another Money Saving Tip

I just came back from a short trip to Ipoh and had fun flying in another turboprop via Firefly after a really, really long time. Boarding the plane from a tarmac. The really short takeoff. The low altitude flying. Plus, it came with free refreshments and 15-kg luggage allowance too.

firefly

But the money saving tip is not about Firefly, but Starhub Happy Prepaid Roam! P.S. This is not an advertorial.

Remember the inconvenience of having to scramble to buy a pre-paid SIM after landing at the airport overseas? I remember my midnight flights where no stores are open when I land. Bummer.

Yes, renting a portable WIFI is an option (I used it for Japan) but it offers nowhere the convenience of having individual SIMs. With StarHub Starhub Happy Prepaid Roam, the problem is solved.

All I need to do is to buy a prepaid SIM before travelling, activate the plan that I want e.g.” 7-Day duration for a total of 1GB for S$7″ and I’m good to go! Cheap data roaming when travelling!

For my Ipoh trip, I activated it the day before I flew, start using mobile data before even alighting from the turboprop, stayed 4 nights, and came back with spare data and duration. I have used it for my previous trip to Hong Kong as well (3-day, 1GB plan for S$5) and it was cheaper than what my wife paid for when she got a local prepaid SIM in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Besides Malaysia, what other common destinations can I use it for? Thailand, Taiwan, Bali and Batam, Australia, South Korea, US and UK too!

Click on the image below for more information.

15-happy-prepaid-sim

I love sharing travel tips like these and I think other telcos have similar offerings as well. Guess I should add this to my list of 43 Vacation Money / Time Saving Secrets (The Travel Industry Don’t Want You To Know)?

More Than Index Investing

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