TCM charity groups answering to the appeals of better usage of charity fund
TCM charity groups answering to the appeals of better usage of charity fund – most will not consider differentiated charges based on patient’s affordability
January 3, 2017
Ye Weiqiang, Xie Yanyan
Charity TCM groups answering to our interview all indicated that they are not planning, nor having capability to investigate the affordability of patients. Supervisors being interviewed said abuse of charity funds is not common .
The Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Association is proposing to make better use of donations in the TCM community. The TCM Institution affiliated to Association is exploring the feasibility of charging fees based on the ability to pay according to market standards and reviewing applications for medication waiver based on family income. However, TCM charity groups did not have much resonance.
The TCM charity groups being interviewed have no plan to, nor have conditions to investigate the patient’s ability to pay. Respondents believe that the abuse of the situation is not common, but also stressed the purpose of practicing medicine is to treat all patients equally.
Dr. Teo Eng Kiat, Chairman of Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Association, put forward at the celebration dinner that “TCM providers need to re-examine the positioning of TCM in the health care system … … put the charity into the real needs of the group, increase efforts to help the poor patients to ensure the rational use of social resources. ”
Thong Chai Medical Institution, which has uphold the mission of “free medication” for 150 years, does not intend to abandon the idea since its founding. Mr. Lim Guan Lee, Chairman of TCMI, agrees with Prof. Teo Eng Kiat that the patients who have the ability should pay more. But he believes that such patients will give back to the society in their own ways. The situation of abuse is not common in TCMI.
Mr. Lim said that 80% patients of TCMI come from low-income class, the remaining 20% come in because of their belief that TCMI physicians can cure their sickness. These patients have their own ways to payback to TCMI. Some donated money into the donation box after treatment, while others will donate money during TCMI fundraising. Some patients’ family donate their condolence collections to TCMI.
Sian Chay Medical Institution, another charity organization with more than 100 years’ history, currently provides free consultation. Sian Chay charges only $2/day for medication for patients under 60 years old, while $0.5/day for medication for patients from 60 to 65 years old. PG aged over 65 years old are waived with medications, as the Lee Foundation pays $ 10 for each patient’s medication. Tuina service charges $10 for age under 60, while $5 for those from 60-65. Acupuncture charges at level price of $5.
Mr. Toh Soon Huat, Chairman of Sian Chay, indicated that all their clinics are located in the HDB area, with the majority of the patients coming from the middle and low income classes and the majority are the elderly. He firmly believes that patients with better financial conditions consciously donate money to Sian Chay.
He said that Sian Chay had set up donations boxes in the clinics, hoping for generous donations from patients, but they would not differentiate patients based on household income.
Mr. Toh Soon Huat said that the Board had originally intended to adjust the medical charges from 1st January . However, concerns of increasing burden on patients due to economic downturn made them to decide to postpone the change by six months to one year later.
Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic will continue to take a common charge regardless of the patients’ backgrounds. The clinics in seven locations throughout the country need to raise $7 million every year. The clinic has been providing free medical care to all people aged 60 and over since 1991. For those aged under 60, consultation is free and $1 for daily dose of general medication, $1 for each session of acupuncture, and $3/day for oncology medications.
“We may have half of our patients who can afford the market standards of medical expenses, and some even drive to seek medical treatment here. That is mainly because that they have been cared by our physicians over the years and feel they have benefited from the care. We will not refuse them just because they have adequate financial ability”, said Chief Executive of Buddhist Free Clinic.
She pointed out that, despite the absence of mandatory or rigid requirements, patients with better financial capability do donate money voluntarily into the donation boxes set up in the clinics after treatment.
Charges based on financial capability, like the means tests used by government hospitals, can focus on low-income earners. However, TCM hospitals and TCM clinics are unable to verify personal information such as household income and assets owned by patients through government agencies.
Cannot blindly do charity
“It is not easy for people to make donations,” said the Chairman of the Chung Hwa Medical Institution, Mr Liew Siaw Foo. “We need to focus on helping people who actually need assistance. It is not easy to check the financial well-being of patients, but we believe that patients have a conscience. No one will apply for medication waiver without a real need.”
He said that the operating expenses of the Chung Hwa Medical Institution and its four branches would amount to $8 to 9 million a year, about half of which would depend on public donations and the rest would be covered by medical fees collected.
Mr. Teo Eng Kiat said that another purpose of making good use of the money is to ensure that the TCM Institution and the clinics have more resources to enhance the welfare of TCM practitioners, since the wages of TCM practitioners have not risen remarkably over the years, meaning that they have not benefited from the country’s prosperity and progress, making people being less interested in this field. He believes that this has formed a potential crisis.