On Weds, Aug 21, I found myself back at Tan Sock Seng Hospital again, as the geriatrician named Dr Angel, wanted to check on mum after her op.
Since it was a 2pm appointment, we wanted to avoid the stress of eating at home and cleaning up thereafter and being late as a result; a restaurant was also out too, as we have no real control over how fast or slow we would be served and that could lead to heart burn, besides wallet burn.
And so it was we headed back to what had become our eating haunt for more times that I would have liked in recent months: the Kopitiam foodcourt at TTSH.
It was an uneventful meal and we were right on time for the geriatrician. But two facts stuck out: prices at the foodcourt seemed to have risen and the quantity shrank or the quality was poorer.
Look at the above picture: three scoops of vegetables (long beans, sayur lodeh and bittergourd) from the vegetarian stall cost $3. I had paid the same price not too many days ago also for three vegetables but the plate was a lot fuller.
Not in the pix was a box of five ondeh ondeh. Again, not many days ago, they cost $2. I was charged $2.20 on Thursday. And the texture of the ondeh was hard rather than chewy, suggesting that they aren’t that fresh.
I know TTSH staff get a discount at the foodcourt (and so their pockets aren’t as affected as non-staff). Still, should spare a thought for the visitors and the out-patients who have little choice but to eat there. The prices don’t break my bank but I feel for the bottom 20/30% in Singapore’s income hierarchy who have no choice but eat something there.
By co-incidence, the day after the visit to TTSH, I found myself on a tour of Singapore Management University as a tag-along when an overseas friend sought and got an appointment for herself, her husband and her forward planning daughter to check out the university’s facilities.
We stopped for a short lunch break at one of SMU’s eateries called Pick & Bite, run by by Koufu. This cafe’s ambience is no superior than a foodcourt’s but being small, it’s cosier and the staff actually do deliver the drinks and make pleasant conversation.
But what impressed me most was the prices. One dish meals are priced at $3 (!!) and there was plenty to choose from. Drinks are at max $1.50. The mui-choi with streaky soy sauce pork and soft fragrant white rice (picture above) was a lip-smacking steal-meal at $3.
I would have eaten every last grain of rice (left abt a dozen grains) if not for the fact that we had to go see the rest of the university.
My burning question: if SMU can serve decent meals at $3 that are open to the public besides students, why can’t TTSH?
Both have government funding and I daresay person-for-person those who find themselves having food at TTSH are unlikely to tap subsidies in the food prices (if any) for as long as students at SMU.
After all, no patient wld last three or four years in a hospital, unlike students who at minimum remain for three years at university.
I remember reading a letter to the newspapers (not sure whether it was the Straits Times or Today) in which the writer alerted to the fact that one of the shops at TTSH was closing down because of a sharp hike in rent.
I don’t know what shop that is but the principle remains the same: tax-payers funded facilities shouldn’t be priced to the extent that those (who have no choice but to use them, like when one or one’s loved ones fall sick) feel the pinch, especially when their or their loved ones’ illness is compounded by poverty and the strain of galloping inflation.
Hopefully, one of our good Members of Parliament or their grassroots cheer-leaders in reading this will think of bringing it to the Minister of Health’s attention.