Getting Healthcare Abroad at National University Hospital (NUH) in Singapore

I have recently just came back a few weeks ago from a medical trip to Singapore. It was to accompany my mom to undergo surgery of the surgical spine to take care of a problem she had been enduring for the past 2 years. While I will not discuss more on the medical case for my mom’s privacy, I would like to share my experiences with the trip and hope this can help anyone considering offshore healthcare.

We went to Singapore’s National University Hospital (NUH). They are one of the larger government managed hospitals in Singapore with the other one being Singapore General Hospital. We chose NUH because we already had prior good experiences here. They have well equipped facilities, courteous and properly trained staff, and a clean modern environment.

So how does one avail of healthcare abroad? Here are some of the things you need to do:

1. Get medical diagnosis and tests locally. Do some of your tests here locally. While you may or may not have any procedures done locally, it is always good to be prepared. Think of the foreign medical advice as second opinion. Also, by having some of your tests done before your trip, you can make sure the first consultation with your foreign physician is alot more productive since you can already show him results recently taken before your trip. More often than not, he may ask you to repeat the tests using their facilities for his confirmation and also to eliminate unknown factors for him since he is unfamiliar with the quality of the equipment used to take your first exam. However, think of this as confirmation of results rather than double costs. I would much rather pay for confirmation of data rather than mistreatment.

2. Contact NUH International Patient Liason Center or IPLC as they call it. I would have posted a picture of the office but they disallow photo taking. They have experienced and professional staff that will provide you assistance and hospitality before, during, and after your trip. You can contact them via email or phone and they can help recommend you the right doctor, find you lodging, set appointments, and help you with directions. They can do alot more than that and you can just refer to their website for more information. However, I must warn you that they now have a call center to field some emails and calls. The call center personnel in my opinion is less qualified and have poorer service. Try to talk to the in-house personnel if possible or keep that in mind so you can be more patient when dealing with the call center agent. During our trip, the in-house person that was very helpful was ‘Steve’. He is the best!

3. Buy a Plane Ticket. Once you have worked out with IPLC your doctor’s schedule and have set an appointment, it is now time to book your plane ticket. To save yourself money from hotel expenses, book to arrive a day before your appointment and to book your return flight roughly 5-7 days later depending on how long you think you will need. Just for reference, it is possible to arrive Day 1, consult on Day 2, perform tests on Day 2-3, consult again on Day 4, perform treatment or surgery on Day 5-6. Return Home on Day 7. (or more if your procedure requires you to recover more prior to taking flights).

It is very easy to book and buy your plane tickets as well. Check out the websites of PAL, Cebu Pacific, or Singapore Airlines and you should be on your way to Singapore soon.

4. Reserve your hotel/lodging. Now that you have your dates and length of stay, you can book and reserve your hotel and lodging. There are many hotels around Singapore and it is up to you to book the classiness of your lodging depending to your budget. Remember that you will be out of your room most of the time and at the hospital. Ask IPLC before hand too if the patient may need to be confined so you will not book extra rooms or extra beds unnecessarily. I would suggest you book a hotel that is near an MRT station for convenience. This is because there is no MRT station at the hospital but they have a free shuttle service running every 10 minutes shuttling people to and from a nearby MRT station. At the time of this writing, it is the Dover Station on the East-West (green) line. One recommendation is the many hotels around Chinatown. You can look for Furama City Center, Hotel 81 or some others in that area. They are 2-4 minutes walk to an MRT Station and is not many stops away from Dover where the shuttle bus is waiting.

Don’t bother trying to look for hotels already in Dover. I tried. The nearest ones are not really near the MRT Station where the free shuttle bus is. One side of the Dover MRT station is the Polytechnic University while the other side is forestry.

5. Getting to NUH upon arrival. From the airport, take a taxi or your hotel transfer or any arrangements you may have IPLC setup for you to your place of stay. When you do need to get to NUH, there are several ways. You can find the details on this link: Getting to NUH.

As mentioned before, my suggestion is to stay in Chinatown and use the MRT to get to Dover station and take the free shuttle bus. This is the most cost effective, convenient method. I will show below the map and markings of the stations. I suggested Chinatown because the stations along the green line is mostly residential, offices, and academic. As a visitor, Chinatown offers more shops, hotels, restaurants, banks, money changers, taxi and bus stands, etc. All your needs as a visitor even for a medical trip will be more accessible in Chinatown while still being a few stations away to Dover.

Once you are at NUH, find IPLC and they can take care of you from there. For reference, here is the are map of NUH as of this writing.

There, I think this is quite a long post but I hope this should be able to get you started if you are considering healthcare options in Singapore. I think its a good option to consider especially if the medical condition is like surgery or something. Everything is well organized, all your information and test results are given to you in a CD at the end of your trip, all medicines are properly prescribed and labelled, and the cost is often the same or just a little more expensive. (For our last trip, it actually costs less than what would have costed us in Manila. We were pleasantly surprised).

Feel free to post comments and suggestions as always. Thanks for reading.

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