TL;DR – Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
Recently Fox News suggested that USA can fix their health care system by copying Singapore’s. Wow. Someone just praised the Singapore government for doing something right! But when something like that happens, you can be certain that there will be people who will say that such reports are wrong. Because there are a group of people who will jump at any chance to insist and tell the whole world that everything in Singapore is in ruins.
Enter Andrew Loh, renowned social commentator. Now anyone who knows Loh knows that he’s no mouthpiece of the government. He often criticises the government and its policies. That’s why when he speaks up for the government, most people would think that there must be some truth in what he said. And what did he say about Singapore’s healthcare? He said this on his Facebook profile:
“Despite its flaws, Singapore’s healthcare system is still among the best, IMHO. Far from being good? Means it’s bad? Really? Let’s be fair and rational. Yes there are flaws. Which system is perfect? But despite that, it is a reasonably good system. There’s no doubt about this.
To make as if it is the worst or among the worst systems in the world is to be quite unrealistic and unfair, especially to the thousands who provide that care across our healthcare system.”
That sparked off a very engaging discussion in the comments. The most interesting comments are from Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist of GIC. He said:
“Since Medishield Life, high quality acute (hospital -based) care has become generally affordable, even for the low income
However it’s good to be aware that for long term chronic primary care ( e.g. Diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension etc) and in particular long term elder care , our healthcare system is relatively poor, in both facilities and healthcare outcomes, compared Asian countries like Japan or even HK or Taiwan.
In fact we have relatively little eldercare facilities and home based support both in terms of physical facilities, trained manpower or financial support. This is a poor showing given our rapidly ageing population and the fact that of all the OECD countries, we have ample fiscal resources to fund it.
This had been systematically neglected all these years and although there is intention to improve in future, progress is very slow”
Which is fair enough. Our system is not perfect. There are gaping holes in our healthcare policies that need to be plugged. But in the ensuing discussion, Andrew highlighted that there are already moves to improve those areas through MOH’s Healthcare Masterplan 2020. Yeoh agreed with Loh that we are moving in the right direction. But Yeoh still thinks we need to move faster. On that point, Loh agreed:
“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes politics to move butts, as we saw after 2011.”
To that, Yeoh replied:
“Yes Andrew you’re sadly right. Meanwhile the poor and the old suffer in silence :(( But it’s important to know that opposition votes translate into faster key social policy reforms”
The exchange of opinions is a great discussion about the state of our healthcare, the steps needed to improve it, and the pace of improvements. Unfortunately, some people stupidly took that discussion out of context and misquoted both men, Andrew Loh and Yeoh Lam Keong. Someone wrote an article on some website with the headline “Ex-GIC chief economist: The sick and the poor have to suffer in silence until the opposition gets more votes”.
Firstly, the headline misquoted Yeoh. Yeoh’s exact words are “the poor and the old”, not “sick and the poor”. Secondly, what Yeoh said didn’t mean our healthcare system will improve only if the opposition gets more votes. Yeoh subsequently posted a clarification on his own Facebook profile:
“Allow me to qualify my incomplete comments to Andrew Loh..
While the threat of opposition gains after the 2011 elections was clearly a factor in speeding up meaningful social policy reform, public awareness and constructive pressure by civic groups and well informed public on needed changes is also very important…
We need both to push for/ catalyze change but also to participate as partners in its co-creation for solutions to the complex policy problems of the day to be truly effective
This requires both democratization of the public debate on social policy and and end to the monopoly information by the government as well as greater civic society- govt partnerships in policy reform and design”
In other words, while the opposition getting more votes contributed to the speeding up of social reforms, it is not the only route or reason. In a separate comment, Yeoh said this of that stupid headline:
“Unfortunately the reporting headline too sensational”
Loh has also taken to Facebook to ‘rubbish the site’.
We have seen the effect of fake/sensationalised news reports in other parts of the world. We need to guard against the proliferation of such sites in Singapore.
Fox News is also not without controversy, as it is believed by many to have a pro-conservative bias. Then again, many news outlets in the U.S. have their own media bias. So as mama says, don’t believe everything you read on the internet and be mindful of the echo chamber too.
On a separate note, we agree with Mr Yeoh more can be done to help the poor and the old in Singapore. We believe it takes more than just voting for the opposition to make things happen, and we can all start by taking a keener interest in the matter so that more constructive discussion can take place.