New Paper: Wrong to make me sign a form

Sick with dengue fever, Workers’ Party MP chose to wait at an emergency ward though it was full. He was then asked to sign an indemnity form.

By Clarence Chang
clarence@sph.com.sg


They said if you want us to treat you, you must sign. Otherwise you’ll be turned away. I was very sick, so I said ‘OK lah, whatever.’
– Mr Low on having to sign TTSH’s indemnity form

Picture: BERITA HARIAN

IT’S 3am.

You’re burning up.

The thermometer reads 40 deg C.

Your worried spouse rushes you to the nearest hospital.

The first response as soon as you get there: Sorry, we’re full. You’ll need to go somewhere else.

No, you protest. I’m here, and I’m sick. I’ll wait.

Well, if you insist on staying, the hospital says, you must sign an indemnity form which clears them of any fault if something happens to you.

Eventually, you relent.

This was what happened to Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang one night in mid-June.

The hospital: Tan Tock Seng (TTSH), Singapore’s second largest.

The time: Yes, 3am.

Mr Low told The New Paper he’d come down with a 40-degree fever that evening.

So his wife accompanied him to TTSH’s Accident and Emergency department to see if he needed to be “admitted”.

Problem was, despite the late hour, hundreds of other patients were also waiting.

“The first thing they showed me was a notice saying ‘Full House’. My feeling was: I could have dengue,” recounted Mr Low.

“But they thought I probably only had a bad flu, so they discharged me.”

The TTSH doctor, however, did refer him to the Communicable Diseases Centre for a follow-up test two days later.

After a second round of checks, his worst fears came true. It was dengue.

STAYED FOR FEW DAYS

Mr Low was immediately admitted to TTSH, where he stayed for “a few days”.

Thankfully, less than a week later, the Workers’ Party Secretary-General had recovered well enough to go home.

“The CEO (of TTSH) Dr Lim Suet Wun even sent me a bouquet of flowers,” Mr Low recalled, stressing that he had “no personal complaints” against the hospital.

But while he was there, people who recognised him related their concerns to him about overcrowding, he told The New Paper.

“Some who remembered they saw me there, even e-mailed me! Their feedback confirmed my own observations.”

Observations which led Mr Low to file three “public interest” questions in Parliament yesterday on TTSH’s bed shortage, its A&E department’s standard of care, and his biggest bugbear – those dreaded indemnity forms.

DIDN’T SEEM RIGHT

“I’ve never seen it before,” he told The New Paper.

“I was puzzled. It didn’t seem quite right.

“They said if you want us to treat you, you must sign. Otherwise you’ll be turned away.

“I was very sick, so I said ‘OK lah, whatever’.”

Before the House, Mr Low read out the words from the very form he’d signed when he went to TTSH for the first time: “I hereby confirm that I have chosen to seek medical attention at TTSH, despite having been informed that TTSH is currently experiencing a full house situation.

“Therefore I will not hold TTSH or any of its employees, servants or agents liable in any way whatsoever for any loss, bodily injury, mishap, accident, loss of life or property, arising directly or indirectly as a result or in connection with my consultation or treatment with TTSH.”

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New Paper: Too late or right time?

Workers’ Party’s Youth Drive

By Clarence Chang
clarence@sph.com.sg


Picture: CHOO CHWEE HUA
WP Youth Wing exco members: From left, Mr Melvin Tan, Mr Chia Ti Lik, Mr Tan Wui Hua (in white shirt), Mr Goh Meng Seng, Ms Ng Swee Bee and Ms Glenda Han.

BETTER late than never?

Or a calculated move to create maximum visibility as possible year-end elections draw near?

Whatever the reason, 48 years after it was formed, the Workers’ Party (WP) finally has a youth wing to call its own.

In fact, if you had taken the train to the Padang for Tuesday’s National Day Parade, you might have spotted its members in blue polo shirts hovering around MRT stations from Hougang to City Hall, brandishing 1,000 mini Singapore flags. You might even have taken a free flag from one of them.

Yup, it was the WP Youth Wing’s first official acitivity and its first public foray since its launch last month.

Its president, Mr Tan Wui Hua, 39, chief financial officer at Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, said: “Politically, we may be the opposition. But we’re still proud citizens of Singapore, and our independence is a cause for celebration.”

You could say, with rumblings of an early election, it’s an ingenious move to tap voter sentiments.

Mr Tan, who is also WP Treasurer, added: “It’s our way of saying let’s celebrate, be happy, but let’s not be conceited. We’d still like to push democracy here to a higher level.”

He had joined WP in mid-2001, and is expected to contest in Aljunied GRC at the next polls. He now heads the new Youth Wing which boasts a nine-member Executive Committee ranging in age from 25 to 39.

The new team – seven men and two women – seem fired up.

“I believe in political competition,” said sales executive Melvin Tan, 31.

“Why sit around and fret when you can do something about things?” asked entrepreneur Glenda Han, 29.

“It’s time our youths stand up and step forth because it’s their future and their country,” added lawyer Chia Ti Lik, 32.

PLAYING CATCH-UP

Other Exco members include an IT consultant, an assistant engineer and even a pre-school teacher. And despite their youth, four of them sit on WP’s central executive council.

Although setting up its own youth recruitment arm is a milestone for WP, it’s clearly playing catch-up – since Young PAP and the Singapore Democratic Party’s Young Democrats already have a headstart.

“We’re still in our infancy, so we want to raise our profile first,” admitted Mr Tan.

“We’ll recruit along the way, but there’ll be no hard sell and no internal benchmarks.”

Besides helping to spread WP’s platform to younger voters, like its call for more political space, its focus on the plight of the poor, and its opposition to casinos, the Youth Wing is also expected to plug the gaps in “succession planning”.

In short, grooming the “next generation”.

TNP understands that WP currently has about 20 active members between 18 and 40 years old – the target age group for its Youth Wing.

Young PAP, on the other hand, boasts a membership of over 6,000 with an average age of 33.

So for sure, WP will have its work cut out for it.

“We’ll leave it to the younger members of our population to choose where to go and what they should do,” stressed Mr Tan.

A Young PAP spokesman declined comment when TNP asked for the group’s reaction.

As for WP, its Youth Wing’s drawcard could well be its social and sporting activities – something its predecessor, the former Hougang Youth Action Committee, had also embarked on.

Now the group is aiming to expand nationwide, and not just confine its reach to its Hougang stronghold.

It is even prepared to take in youngsters keen on joining the Youth Wing but not the Workers’ Party itself, calling them “associate members”.

Desperate? Or clever?

Too little, too late?

Or right move, right time?

“This is the first time I’m hearing about them,” Institute of Policy Studies political analyst Jeanne Conceicao, 40, told The New Paper.

“There doesn’t seem to be much publicity. So unless elections are held only next year, there won’t be enough time to make much of an impact.”

Or it seems, to grow WP’s overall support base.

With no clear-cut plans or targets, Ms Conceicao feels, the new unit’s impact will only be felt at the “next GE”, not “this” one.

Well, with the clock ticking fast to the big day, and with WP already touted as the opposition party to watch, Singaporeans can only wonder.