Patients will usually not be turned away because of financial difficulty, said doctors The New Paper spoke to.

Instead, their medical needs will be met first, said Dr Clarence Yeo, who runs Killiney Family and Wellness Clinic at Killiney Road.

"It is only reasonable that we attend to the patient first. They can come back and pay later. Some of them might choose to leave an identification card behind," said Dr Yeo.

Dr Madeleine Chew of MW Medical, which provides mobile medical services, agreed.

"We'll look at the severity of the situation and if the case is genuine. But most doctors would give treatment anyway," Dr Chew said.

She also pointed out that payment is normally not mentioned until treatment is given.

"We discuss payment only after that, and if the patient cannot pay, there are options such as adjusting the medication," she said.


Likewise in hospitals, patients who cannot pay their medical bills can approach staff members for help, according to the websites of public hospitals.

They will be referred to schemes such as Medifund and government assistance schemes such as the Medication Assistance Fund.

Doctors TNP spoke to agreed that clinic workers play a role.

In Miss Maria Schooling's case, the clinic assistant did not consult the doctor before turning her away.

"The staff member could have handled the situation better in this case. If she was unsure, she could have consulted the doctor," said Dr Yeo.

Dr Chew said that she does not give her staff explicit instructions on what to do in a situation when a patient does not have enough money, but it is a matter of judgment.

"It's basic human decency. Most people will not turn away someone who needs help."