Surgery? Nail clipper did the job

In February, my son went to Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic to seek help for an ingrown toenail on his left foot. He was in great pain and could not walk properly.

The doctor said he needed surgery as it was the only way to ease his pain.

Hoping to resolve the problem, we then proceeded to the National University Hospital. The doctor there repeated what the polyclinic doctor had said. But the surgery date given was about two months away.

Although the doctor tried to expedite the surgery by referring my son to a specialist clinic, he indicated the right toe instead of the left on the referral letter.

We then decided to seek help from a general practitioner in my neighbourhood. The doctor used a nail clipper and removed the ingrown toenail within a minute.

Had I not sought a third opinion, my son would have had to undergo unnecessary surgery and incur hefty medical expenses.

What should I make of the health care provided to the public in Singapore? Are public-sector doctors adequately trained?

Karen Teo (Madam)

Serious cases may need surgery

Madam Karen Teo's son visited our emergency department on Feb 21 complaining of two weeks of persistent pain in his left big toe, which was attributed to an ingrown toenail.

His condition did not warrant urgent treatment at an accident and emergency department, and he was given a prescription for pain relief and an early appointment to be reviewed by our specialists at the orthopaedic clinic on Feb 25, to assess whether surgery was required.

For some serious cases of ingrown toenail, surgery may be the recommended therapy for long-term resolution of the condition.

We apologise for the mistake in the referral letter, which wrongly labelled the painful toe as the right, when it was the left big toe. We have counselled our staff to be extra careful in this regard.

Malcolm Mahadevan (Associate Professor)
Head & Senior Consultant
Emergency Medicine Department
National University Hospital

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