Like many of my fellow senior citizens, I suffer from chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes. I also have mobility problems; my legs are weak and I cannot walk for more than 10 minutes before having to sit down.
I have to make frequent trips to the polyclinics and hospital for multiple check-ups and consultations. As I do not live within walking distance of the nearest polyclinic, my son has to take leave from work to ferry me to these appointments.
There was one occasion when he could not take leave and I ended up having to take a taxi. The fare was expensive for a retiree like me with no income.
I am one of the lucky few; there are many senior citizens who do not have children to take them to their check-ups, or money to spare for taxis.
Travelling by public transport is exhausting; the buses and trains are so crowded and sometimes, it is impossible to get near a grab pole, let alone get a seat.
I know of elderly folk who do not go for their regular check-ups because the process is too arduous, especially for those who are less mobile.
The Community Health Assist Scheme grants us subsidies at participating private clinics, but the keyword here is "participating". Furthermore, not all private clinics are as well-equipped as polyclinics and hospitals for handling chronic diseases and certain medical check-ups.
Health-care subsidies are all well and good, but they do not make sense if we cannot use them.
If increasing the number of polyclinics is not possible in the short term, then I hope the Government can make transport to hospitals and polyclinics more convenient for senior citizens. It is imperative that the support networks and infrastructure be adapted to better prepare us for an ageing population.
Perhaps the grassroots organisation of each constituency could work out something with the nearest hospitals or polyclinics to arrange shuttle bus services for the residents.
Letter from Ng Kum Leng
This article was published on April 11 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.