What’s the cost of recovering from a major heart operation in Singapore?

It has been more than two months since I had my quadruple coronary heart bypass surgery at the National Heart Centre (Singapore). Earlier, I wrote about the costs of the operation itself which cost a total of S$25,000, before government subsidies and insurance. (Please see here.)

In this article, I will talk about the post-op follow-up consultation and rehabilitation costs, so as to give readers – and those who may be undergoing or contemplating similar procedures  an idea of what to expect in terms of financial commitment.

Deciding to go through a heart bypass operation is a major decision, often a necessary one, as in my case. Three of my main arteries were significantly blocked, which resulted in chest pains, shortness of breath and a general deterioration of my health the year before the surgery.

Two months after the operation, I feel so much better. I no longer feel chest pains when I take a deep breath, or when I swim or cycle. Although I have been advised by my doctors to avoid jogging for the next two more months at least, I already feel much better when I do brisk walking in the evenings.

All in all, I feel lighter, and more energetic.

And this improved state of my health has come about partly also because of the rehabilitation sessions which I have been attending at the NHCS.

The rehab takes place twice a week, each session lasting 1.5 hours. There are physiotherapists and nurses keeping watch on each bypass patient doing their rounds of treadmill walking, cycling and exercises on other machines.

The sessions cost $15.50 each for subsidised patients (50% subsidy). For non-subsidised ones, they will pay $30. I also see some more senior patients paying just S$7.50 per 1.5 hours. So, do ask your medical professional about this.

There is also the S$42.40 counselling and assessment fee to be paid before you begin the sessions proper.

I have attended 5 of the 16 planned rehab sessions so far, so the total cost till now is S$77.50 + S$42.40 = S$119.90.

There is also the optional ECG test I may do to be sure of my cardiac health. This test, which will come later when the physiotherapists are certain I am able to run or jog, will let me know if my heart can take stress during exertion. I am really looking forward to doing the test because it will give me certainty about whether I can start running again, which is one of the things I love to do.

Besides the rehab, there are also follow-up consultations with the doctors, particularly the surgeon who did my operation and the cardiologist who referred me to the surgeon in the first place.

Do keep in mind that I am a subsidised patient. This means I pay lower rates than non-subsidised ones.

For the two consultations I have had with the surgeon so far, the first one cost S$38.00. The second one was S$113.72, including the medications the doctor prescribed.

My review by the cardiologist took place in November and it included an ECG test and an X-ray investigation. Total cost: S$85.00.

These costs are to be paid in cash. (I am not sure if Medisave can be used to pay for these. You should consult your medical advisers on this.)

So, the total post-op costs I have had to pay so far is S$356.62 for consultations and medications from 9 September to 12 November.

There will be more rehab sessions and one more consultation with my surgeon in December. After this, I should be free from these commitments, until next year (2017) where I will have a yearly review by my cardiologist. (The next one is already scheduled for November 2017.)

So, all in all, the costs are quite manageable, considering that the surgery I had was a major one. Certainly, the subsidies help, and so too medical insurance such as Medishield Life.

Nonetheless, what is perhaps just as important is personal life insurance, including insurance for critical illness. I am quite fortunate that I have a personal insurance policy to cover critical illness, which means all my medical expenses will be paid for by this.

And that is a topic which I will perhaps write about in my next article – how having personal medical insurance should be one of the very first things you do when you come out to work (if you are a young person), and how it is also critical for everyone else.

No one wants to be sick, or to be struck with a major illness. Most of us would not even want to make plans to manage this if such a thing should ever happen. Maybe it is because we are superstitious, touch wood, that thinking about such things might in fact conjure them in our reality. That’s nonsense, of course.

Whether we feel we may be struck by such unfortunate events or not, we should realise that as human beings, we are vulnerable, especially when we are older. And thus, we should make contingency plans for the possibility while we are young, while we still have the means to.

So, do not put off your medical insurance plans. Look into it immediately. They could save you from a whole lot of unnecessary financial trouble.



Andrew Loh is a veteran political observer and writer in Singapore. He co-founded The Online Citizen and currently manages Publichouse.sg.

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