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Having bad stomach cramps after eating mala hotpot? Consult your General Practitioner (GP) first, instead of heading to the SKH Emergency Department (ED). If the GP deems your condition to be an emergency after an assessment, he will refer you to SKH under the GPFirst scheme.

Going to the GP allows you to receive timely medical treatment closer to home. This also helps free up the emergency department for more urgent cases such as heart attacks or strokes. In addition, you will receive a S$50 subsidy on the hospital's attendance fee for GP referrals under this scheme.

GPFirst was initiated by Changi General Hospital in 2014 to encourage residents living in the east to visit their GPs for non-emergency medical conditions. SKH joined the scheme in November 2020 to benefit residents in the northeast.

In the first of this regular series, Dr Koh Shao Hui, GPFirst Clinical Lead at SKH, shares why your GP should be your first port of call.

Common conditions your GP can treat

Abdominal Pain or Indigestion

Commonly referred to as stomach ache, it can be due to indigestion, trapped wind, overeating, a viral or bacterial infection.

"Most of the time, abdominal pain is non-life threatening although it can be quite painful. A GP can start treatment first to control the pain, and assess if the clinical examination suggests something more sinister. Most stomach ache cases can be immediately treated by GPs with medications," explains Dr Koh.

For example, a GP can quickly diagnose a patient who reports abdominal cramps and vomiting after eating a bowl of laksa with mild poisoning. He can give injections to ease the symptoms and give the patient medical leave to rest at home—all without the patient having to visit the hospital.

Eating contaminated food or overeating is a typical cause of an upset stomach. In most cases, Dr Koh says having plenty of rest and drinking liquids, like rice water, can help the body get rid of the toxins while ensuring the body remains hydrated.

If the stomach ache is sudden and severe in a particular area of your belly, it could be due to more serious causes like appendicitis, ulcers, gallstones or kidney stones. Head to the ED immediately if the pain worsens and is accompanied by sweating, breathlessness, fainting or if there is blood in the vomit or stools.

How to treat abdominal pain or indigestion at home:

• Sip water

• Avoid solid food for a few hours

• Avoid milk and other dairy products


Nosebleeds can look scary but they are very common. These happen when tiny blood vessels in your nose burst, due to disturbances like nose picking, excessive blowing, dry environments, irritation from foreign objects, allergies and infections. Bleeding can be from one or both nostrils, heavy or light, and may last from a few seconds to over 10 minutes.

Dr Koh assures that most nosebleeds are minor and will respond to first-aid measures. But if nosebleeds happen frequently, a visit to the GP can be helpful to further assess the underlying cause.

A GP's assessment may reveal nasal inflammation of a chronically sensitive nose, and the GP can provide anti-allergy nose drops and simple first-aid measures to stop the nosebleed.

But prolonged nosebleeds despite first-aid measures—especially if they occur after an injury to the face—may suggest a more serious condition, like an underlying fracture. Additional presence of bleeding gums may indicate a bleeding disorder, which warrants a visit to the ED. Your GP can pick up these red flags and make the referral to the ED.

How to treat nosebleeds at home:

• Sit and lean forward

• Pinch the nose just above the nostrils

• Breathe through your mouth

• Continue until bleeding stops, usually after 10 minutes

• If bleeding continues, hold for another 10 minutes and suck on some ice cubes

• If your nose is injured, wrap a bag of ice in a towel and place it on your nose bridge

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