It took me a long time to decide on this adventure, to venture into alien territory on a Saturday morning. I have never done this for decades and whatever memories of this place were from the time when I was a kid. Finally, with much reluctance, I bravely trotted into this corner of Singapore that I have never treaded for a long time.
I arrived just about a quarter to 10 in the morning. I was a bit lost with the geography of the land and had to ask to get to where I want to be. I was shown this queue machine and got my Q number. There were quite a lot of people and also ample staff to guide the new visitors like me. I waited for 10 minutes before my Q number flashed on the big screens. I registered and the customer relations officer was all helpful and friendly. What a pleasant start on this adventure. She even explained to me the procedure to save waiting time. I could make an appointment from home by logging into the system. She apologetically said I would have to for an hour before my appointment for just walking in.
To me, recollecting on my childhood experience, an hour of waiting was fair game. I went for coffee and still had a lot to time to take a look at the waiting area and the Q numbers called. Wow, another 100 numbers ahead of me. Now how to kill one hour of time doing nothing? Ok, visited the restroom. My, another big surprise, spanking clean, dry and odourless, as good as home. Because it was so comfortable, because I had one hour to spare, I took my time. I thought I had more than half an hour and strolled out casually only to find I just missed my turn. Spoke to the customer relations officer and she took up my case and yes, I was called immediately to see the doctor.
I have this blurring or clouding of vision on one eye for a couple of years. After the preliminaries he asked which hospital would I want to get the cataract done. I told him to get me the cheapest. He broke into laughter. Ok, the most convenient is Ng Teng Fong Hospital. What about the fees? Not to worry, they charged the same rate. It was a quick appointment. And I also asked for some medicine for my flu and cough. All over in less than 5 minutes.
I went to the Pharmacy and collected my medicine in less than 5 minutes and happily wanted to leave the place. Then I remembered her saying to go to the counter behind. Oops, I got to pay for my medicine. I could have just gone home without knowing that I got to pay for it.
At the payment counter the cashier said three eightty five. I said, uh, so expensive. She was apologetic and explained that I had two kinds of medicine. Ok, gave her $10 and got my change of $6.15. There was GST but absorbed by the govt, ie not GST.
My next stop was for an appointment for my ops. The cashier said go to counter 10 and press 3 on the machine. A bit puzzled but just did as told. Found the counter, found the machine, and yes there was a button for 3. Press it and was wondering what’s next. Oh, a Q number. That was wbat the button 3 was for. Took the Q number and wait. This time waited for 15 minutes, the longest wait in the whole process.
When my turn came, the customer relations officer entered my particulars and said Ng Teng Fong Hospital would contact me for the appointment. And that’s it, all over in less than an hour, without making an appointment in advance.
This was my adventure to a Polyclinic on a Saturday morning. It was simply not the same as decades ago when waiting time was long and waiting unnecessarily was the norm. Everything was so organized and befitting for a first world experience. I could not find any fault with the organization, the set up and the staff. It was clockwork precision, too efficient that I almost missed my appointment when I thought I would have an hour to wait but actually half an hour.
Every staff was professional and courteous, and, you don’t believe this… I thought I was entering alien land, at least that was what I was told. If I am not mistaken, all the staff, including the doctor, was Singaporean. At least their names and the way they sounded when they spoke. No aliens!
Whoever reinvented the Polyclinics, the organization, the processes and procedures, and the staff operating them, one could not ask for better. This is the standard to be copied by all the ministries. My adventure was in a way a very pleasant experience and a very comfortable one, for $3.85, inclusive of consultation and medicine.
This is my Singapore, the Singapore Singaporeans are proud to call home, the efficiency and quality of service that made Singapore a hallmark and model for the rest of the world.
Please keep Singapore this way. I must say I was happily surprised that the Polyclinics are still Singaporean territory and in tip top condition.