Man, 67, made to endure 18-hour fast because of postponed surgery

PHOTO: Man, 67, made to endure 18-hour fast because of postponed surgery

SINGAPORE - A 67-year-old man had to endure a near full-day fast, after a surgery that was scheduled got postponed, twice.

According to a letter to the Straits Times, Ms Cai Weishan, said her father had hospitalised in a six-patient ward at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for pneumothorax.

He was told by a doctor that he was scheduled for an operation for Oct 3, subject to availability of an operating theatre.

When no word was heard from the hospital the night before, the family assumed there would be none.

On the night of Oct 3 however, a staff nurse called to inform that he had to fast from midnight, as the operation was confirmed for the next day. No time was scheduled.

Ms Cai said her father waited the whole day on Oct 4, without food or intravenous feeding, for his turn.

But at 5.45pm, they were told the operation was postponed till the next day.

He was told to fast again and wait for a time slot.

"On Oct 5, his surgery was postponed yet again - after 18 hours of fasting," said Ms Cai.

In her letter, she wrote: "While I cannot understand how the hospital schedules its operations, I witnessed the punishing fast my father had to endure on top of his anxiety over the impending operation."

Ms Cai also said hospital and staff seemed "indifferent" to her dad's suffering, and she found it "hard to reconcile my father's example with Singapore's reputation as a world-class medical hub."

We could have been more sensitive: SGH

In a reply to Ms Cai's letter, SGH's head of general surgery, Professor Wong Wai Keong, said the hospital could have been "more sensitive" in their communication with the family, when explaining reasons for the postponement of surgery.

Professor Wong apologised for the discomfort and anxiety that the incident caused.

He explained that the procedure was rescheduled because the doctor in charge had to attend to emergency procedures on critically-ill patients.

"The duration of emergency procedures could not be anticipated and they usually take longer than expected," said Professor Wong.

He stressed that patient's safety is paramount, and assessments are done to ensure the postponement of surgery would not affect the patient's safety and well-being.

But Professor Wong acknowledged that the fasting and anxiety of waiting was a difficult and uncomfortable experience.