SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB) have responded to stories published online on how the board denied a man’s request to use his CPF savings for his wife’s cancer treatment, calling the claims “misleading”.
"To help his wife, Mr Suriia Das is appealing for his CPF retirement savings to be used for her medical expenses," MOH and CPFB said in a joint statement on Friday (Jul 12).
"We would like to make the following information public, as it is important to do so because of the misleading information that has been put out."
In a YouTube video published on Jul 7 by lawyer M Ravi, 47-year-old Suriia Das says CPFB rejected his request to transfer his CPF savings from his Ordinary and Special Accounts to his wife MediSave account.
His wife, Sarojini Jayapal, also 47, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016.
The couple says in the video that they have "drained out" the funds in both their MediSave accounts, and used up Ms Sarojini’s savings in her CPF account.
Ms Sarojini said in the video that she is seeking treatment at a private hospital “because they are the only ones who have offered hope in terms of a cure”, and claims that the National University Hospital (NUH) told them that her condition was incurable when they sought a second opinion.
COUPLE WAS TOLD THAT CANCER IS INCURABLE
In the joint statement, MOH and CPFB said that this is untrue, and that the prognosis from NUH and at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) and Mount Elizabeth Hospital were similar - that her disease is terminal.
“Since 2017, she has opted to receive treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and PCC. PCC has informed her and her husband that her cancer is not curable and her illness is terminal,” the statement said.
It added that NUH had offered her an open appointment date should the family decide to transfer to the public hospital for subsidised care.
MOH and CPFB added that Mdm Sarojini is covered by Medishield Life as well as private insurance under an Integrated Shield plan.
“Mdm Sarojini is covered by MediShield Life, which has paid out about S$60,000 for her medical and hospitalisation bills so far," the statement said.
“Together with MediShield Life, health insurance has paid out over S$300,000 to date, covering close to 90 per cent of her medical bills at PCC and Mount Elizabeth Hospital."
The joint statement also said she is receiving help from other healthcare schemes which has "reduced the financial burden of her treatment over the past few years".
“Mdm Sarojini has also been receiving S$1,100 per month under ElderShield and ElderShield supplement plans since October 2017, amounting to about S$23,000,” the statement said.
The couple has also withdrawn about S$9,000 from their MediSave accounts for her treatment.
"SUBSIDISED CARE REMAINS AN OPTION"
MOH and CPFB added that Ms Sarojini had applied in 2017 to withdraw all her CPF savings in her Ordinary and Special Accounts which amounted to about S$25,000.
Her request then was approved based on PCC’s assessment that she was terminally ill, the statement said.
CPF Board’s Home Protection Scheme also paid out S$186,500 to fully redeem her outstanding mortgage loan.
“In sum, arising from Mdm Sarojini’s illness, CPF-allowed insurance schemes have paid out a total of about S$510,000 to date, while S$34,000 has been withdrawn from the CPF accounts of both Mdm Sarojini and Mr Suriia Das,” the statement said.
MOH and CPFB said that they “empathise deeply” with the difficulties the couple is facing.
“We have done all we can to extend support to them through different schemes since 2017," the statement said.
“We would like to emphasise again that subsidised care remains an option for the family. Should they face difficulties with their healthcare bills at NUH, they would be able to seek additional financial assistance from MediFund."