There is this stereotype about government hospitals in Malaysia. Slow, packed and totally inefficient. Although certain modern new hospitals in big cities and town has bucked the trend and offers world-class service, most government hospitals and clinics unfortunately has still not.
My recent visit to the Tanah Merah hospital all but confirmed this stereotype. I was fortunate enough to catch dengue this Hari Raya holidays and since I refuse to spend 30 to 40 ringgit a day on private clinics, I braved myself to visit the government hospital in town.
After parking the car, my first task was to find the outpatient unit. Signboards are aplenty but if you follow them blindly, you'll end up circling the entire hospital before you actually find the unit. The actual place is really not far away from the entrance but somehow they forgot to point that out to you.
First timers here should be aware that there is a system when checking in yourself for the first time. Take the number slip and strip it to two. Attach one with your I.C and give it to the attending staff. Keep the other half for yourself and wait for your turn. If you're lucky, this would take no more than 30 minutes.
Once the registration process is done, bring the documents to counter H and wait for your actual number. This might take from 45 to 90 minutes depending on the crowd. Nobody told me I must take my documents to counter H so I wasted like another 10 minutes doing nothing. Lucky for me, my spider-senses told me to take the documents to counter H.
Since I had dengue, they had to take my blood sample for a test. I waited to go to room 3 where they poked this huge needle into my arm and collected a syringe full of blood. I was then told to send the blood sample to the pathology lab at the next building.
My blood test was the quickest of all. It took them less then 10 minutes to print out the results.
After that I returned to the dreaded counter H again and took another number, a new one. So basically I had to start waiting all over again, like I just arrived there despite the fact that I've been there since morning.
After seeing the doctor, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my meds which was unsurprisingly a few packets of good old paracetamols. Thank God that didn't take long. I almost died from waiting too long.
My meeting with the doctor lasted no more than 5 minutes and as cute as she is, I still can't believe I waited 5 hours for all this. 5 bloody hours! Think of all the productivity lost. There must be something seriously wrong with the system here. The Putrajaya hospital that I went to a few days later fared only slightly better at 2 hours waiting time.
I understand perfectly that for most folks in rural areas, government hospitals and clinics is the most affordable and in most cases the only choice they had for medical treatment hence the constant overflowing crowd. I also understand that most government clinics are understaffed and overwhelmed with patients but surely that's no excuse for them to come up with a more efficient and less time consuming system. I'm sure those well-paid doctors and staff with the best and brightest minds at the health ministry can come out with something better, anything to overcome this problem. Till then, I'm not sure I want to go to government hospitals again if I can help it.