|From too ill to move, to too big a bill|
They were hoping for a miracle.
But it was not to be.
Madam H Wong, 78, who had an ailing heart and other medical conditions, died in July at Gleneagles Hospital after an almost seven-month stay.
After her death, the grieving family received a rude shock. Her hospitalisation bill and doctors' fees came to $700,000.
Mr Yang Ya Bo (top pic, with an sms from a bank employee concerning his loan), 46, and his siblings were stunned.
The family, who had earlier asked that she be transferred to a cheaper restructured hospital, had expected a bill of up to $400,000.
'But the final bill was almost twice as much,' said Mr Yang in an interview with The New Paper.
They still owe the hospital about $484,000.
A ParkwayHealth spokesman said that the hospital had kept the family informed of Madam Wong's medical condition and the bill amount regularly. (See report on facing page).
Now Mr Yang and his siblings are worried because they cannot afford to pay the bill.
Said Mr Yang: 'Despite our repeatedly telling the hospital that we could not afford the bills and that we wanted to transfer our mother to a restructured hospital, nothing was done.
'Doctors we approached for help told us that she was too fragile to be moved.'
This happened even though the ParkwayHealth spokesman noted that it was her doctors who suggested transferring Madam Wong to a restructured hospital to one of her sons.
During her stay in the hospital from 13 Dec to 4Jul, Mr Yang noted that his mother was well enough to be moved from the intensive care unit (ICU) to the general ward on some occasions.
'Why couldn't she have been moved to a government hospital then?' he said.
His elder brother, Mr C T Yang, 48, added: 'We asked for a transfer as early as January. No doctor ever asked us whether we wanted to transfer my mother to a restructured hospital.'
The younger Mr Yang said he had also called a government hospital to ask about the procedure and was told that there must be a doctor willing to take on his mother's case.
'The government hospital nurse messaged me to say that it would be difficult for a doctor to accept my mother as she is ill,' he said.
He showed the SMS to The New Paper, but declined to reveal the nurse's handphone number and name.
Madam Wong suffered from many health problems, including diabetes and an abnormal heartbeat. She also had a damaged valve in her heart which caused water to accumulate in her lungs.
'All these years, she had been looked after by a cardiologist in that hospital, so it was a matter of habit that we sent her there again this time,' said Mr Yang.
But once she was hospitalised, it seemed that there was nothing they could do to transfer her.
That was not the only matter that made the family upset.
They were also unhappy that the hospital did not keep them posted in stages of their mother's conditions as well as the ballooning hospital bills.
Mr Yang and his elder brother both claimed that the Gleneagles doctors encouraged them to remove the life support from their mother after she slipped into a coma.
'They were all telling us to give up as there was very little hope for her. But we could not,' said Mr Yang.
Mr Yang, who is divorced, had been working in Shanghai as a purchasing officer until early this year when he quit to come home to look after his mother. He is unemployed now.
Part of their financial problem was also due to his ex-wife borrowing money from the family, he claimed.
They had taken out a mortgage of $570,000 from the bank, using their mother's Sembawang house which is worth about $700,000.
'She has returned $200,000 so far,' said Mr Yang, who has a son,13.
If he sells his HDB flat in Hougang, he said he would get back less than $100,000.
'And I still need a place to stay. My siblings, three of whom live in my mother's old house, also need a place to stay,' he said.
This story was first published in The New Paper on Sept 1, 2008.