Dr David Chua took over from Dr Low Cheng Ooi, our current Chief Medical Board, as the Chief of CGH Orthopaedic Surgery Department in December 2007. Even though it is early days, he wants to see his department grows by at least 50 per cent in the next couple of years.
At the moment, the department has six senior consultants, four consultants and five associate consultants. Dr Chua says that even though the department is one of the largest in the hospital after General Medicine and General Surgery, he still needs a larger team.
His motive for the growth is that the need for orthopaedic treatment is increasing in Singapore. He explains that there are two reasons for this.
The first is that Singapore, like so many other countries in the world these days, has an ageing population. Advancing years means thinning and weakening bones, which may lead to orthopaedic injuries such as hip and wrist fractures. The second reason is financial.
“As people become more affluent, they can afford to improve their quality of life by say, having a total knee replacement to fix the osteoarthritic knee. Things they ignored 20 years ago can now be fixed,” says Dr Chua.
“Many people in Singapore don’t feel comfortable managing orthopaedic-related pain. If it doesn’t get better in a couple of weeks, they like to get a specialist’s opinion,” he adds.
The most common orthopaedic problems seen in the department can be divided into outpatient and inpatient issues. Dr Chua says that knee and back problems are most common in the outpatient clinic, whereas fractures, osteoporotic injuries and diabetic-related injuries are found in patients treated in the general ward.
The Orthopaedic Surgery Department’s remit is wide. Services include fracture care, sports injuries, adult reconstruction (joint replacement), and spine, shoulder, elbow, foot and ankle surgery. It is no surprise, then, that the department has one of the heaviest workloads in the hospital.
Aside from growing the department, Dr Chua is also steering it to meet the healthcare needs of Singapore’s ageing population. For the past two years, the Orthopaedic Surgery Department has been working closely with the hospital’s geriatricians on hip fractures.
Another area is spine surgery where not only the volume of cases is increasing, but also the complexity of the cases. It is because of the sheer volume of cases that Dr Chua believes his department’s strongest areas of expertise are in spine and trauma surgery. “The more cases you deal with, the more expertise you develop,” he explains.
He wants to develop the existing team and expand the subspecialities offered in the department. This he has to achieve while keeping a balance of the doctors’ interests and abilities. The result of this spread of training would mean patients receive better care at CGH.
After his own medical education in Singapore, Dr Chua spent a year in Toronto, Canada for his trauma training. The 48-year-old surgeon’s area of interest lies in trauma and adult reconstruction.
While Dr Chua pays plenty of attention to his patients’ problems, he does not do anything outside of the hospital that would cause him any harm. So instead of contact sports that could have him on the patient side of the doctor-patient consultation, he is interested in photography, going to the movies, reading books and spending time with his three children.