Further Response to Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Press Secretary

We thank the MOH for its latest reply on this issue. All Singaporeans have a stake in an effective healthcare system. Everyone should feel confident that the risk of serious infection in our public healthcare facilities is at an absolute minimum.

We note that both MOH statements on Sunday 25 October did not engage with our reasons for reconstituting the current review committee as a COI.

Being tasked to review the workflow of senior civil servants who regulate medical practice in Singapore may place the members of the review committee (who are currently serving in public healthcare institutions and the MOH itself) in an awkward position. For example, one of the questions the committee should address is the extended time lapse between the notification of MOH and the public announcement and initiation of containment measures.

It is in this context that we suggest augmenting the committee with retired clinicians and a current or former High Court Judge as well as appointing a retired healthcare administrator or clinician as co-chair.

It is important that the review of MOH workflow be seen to be conducted in a manner that is independent of MOH.

A COI would also enable deliberations to be made public, which would be more effective in defending public confidence in our healthcare system.

COIs were convened in the case of the 2013 Little India riot and the 2011 MRT breakdowns. We have provided reasons for why the current review committee should be reconstituted as a COI, reasons to which the government has not responded. It is not clear from MOH’s responses on Sunday why a review committee and not a COI is their preferred mechanism for addressing the Hepatitis C outbreak at SGH, to which five patient deaths may be linked. Should the government choose to share its views on this question, we would gladly consider and engage with those views with an open mind.

We note that a COI does not presuppose any malicious intent or wrongdoing by any party, as seen in the convening of a COI for the 2011 MRT breakdowns.

We find the call for the Workers’ Party to lead evidence before a COI can be convened to be inappropriate given that the Workers’ Party does not have inquisitorial or investigative powers to marshal evidence through subpoenas of records and witnesses. It is not incumbent on anyone calling for a COI as a matter of procedural improvement to present allegations and evidence of any wrongdoing.

We have recommended reconstituting the current review committee as a COI rather than waiting for the committee to report before deciding on a COI. This underlines our intent to support and strengthen the current review process so that meaningful lessons can be drawn in a way that bolsters public confidence.

Leon Perera
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament-Elect
The Workers’ Party

26 October 2015