Monday, 1 September 2014

Self-help groups ask better-off to chip in more

From next year, the Chinese, Indian and Eurasian self-help groups will raise monthly contribution rates. High-income earners face the largest increases. The groups said they need more money to cope with rising costs and to roll out new programmes. These contributions, which people can opt out of or give more if they choose, are deducted automatically from monthly salaries.
By Priscilla Goy, The Sunday Times, 31 Aug 2014

SINDA: Smaller community faces fund pressures

High-earning Indian professionals have been asked to step up their donations to their community's self-help fund.

From the current $7 a month, those earning more than $15,000 monthly will be expected to contribute $30 from next year.

This is the steepest rise among the increased rates announced by three self-help groups, including the ones for the Chinese and Eurasian communities, yesterday.

"The new rates are more progressive," Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, who is president of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), told community stakeholders at a forum at PGP Hall in Serangoon. "Those who earn more will contribute more."

A majority of the contributors - those earning between $1,000 and $4,500 a month - will not see any changes. The lowest income tier has also been broadened, such that those earning between $600 and $1,000 each month will be asked to pay $1 a month instead of $3.

The changes are expected to add about $3 million to the fund's annual collection of about $8 million, excluding the Government's contribution, other grants and programme fees.

China's experience with graft: The good and the bad

Decades of corruption have not slowed China's growth. In fact, "good corruption" might have catalysed the economy at some stages.
By John Wong, Published The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

CHINESE President Xi Jinping's new leadership has appeared radically different from his predecessors'.

Nowhere is it so markedly distinctive as in his determination to fight China's widespread corruption. Mr Xi's war against corruption, first launched in December 2012 to catch both "flies" (low-level offenders) and "tigers" (high-level corrupt officials), is still going on unabated. It has netted more than 40 high-profile "tigers" or officials and executives of state-owned enterprises equivalent to ministerial and provincial-governor rank.

They included one former Politburo Standing Committee member, Zhou Yongkang, and one senior general, Xu Caihou. As for the "flies", some 180,000 Communist Party members were punished last year. In the first half of this year, another 84,000 officials were disciplined.

The tenacity and ferocity of Mr Xi's anti-graft drive have totally surprised many observers at home and abroad who initially thought he would just use it against his potential political opponents so as to consolidate his power, much as his predecessors had routinely done. Others thought that he was doing this to facilitate the implementation of his reforms.

'Hippie hair' crisis between Singapore and Malaysia

This is an excerpt from the book The Accidental Diplomat: The Autobiography Of Maurice Baker by Maurice Baker, an academic and one of Singapore's pioneer diplomats
The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

I THOUGHT that a meeting of the two prime ministers face-to-face might help to lead to better understanding and improve relations between Singapore and Malaysia.

The plans were made and set in motion for Lee Kuan Yew to visit Kuala Lumpur.

But an unfortunate incident ruined our plans and set back the visit till after I had left Kuala Lumpur and returned to teach at the University of Singapore in 1972.

The Singapore police had received information that a gang of youths, probably secret society members, would meet in the Orchard Road car park (now no more) which at night flourished as a hawker centre.

By an unfortunate coincidence, three long-haired Malaysians, two of whom were university undergraduates from Kuala Lumpur and who were on a visit to Singapore, had decided to have a meal at the hawker centre.

The local detectives promptly arrested them and, despite their protests that they were Malaysians who had left behind their passports in their hotel, the detectives hauled them to the Central Police Station, forced them to have a haircut and locked them up for the night!

They were searched but no drugs were found on them. The next day the police realised their mistake but it was too late. The high-handed action of the detectives was to have severe repercussions as the undergraduates from the Universiti of Malaya at Pantai Valley in Kuala Lumpur decided on a huge demonstration against the Singapore High Commission which was then located at the fifth floor of the Straits Trading Building on Market Street (now Jalan Leboh Pasar).

PM Lee, Khaw urge new citizens to integrate and Singaporeans to help newcomers settle in

PM urges all citizens to build a common identity
Both new citizens and Singaporeans can take their cue from country's pioneers
By Tham Yuen-C and Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 31 Aug 2014

New citizens and Singaporeans alike should follow in the footsteps of the country's pioneers, who contributed and built a common Singaporean identity, despite being from different races and cultures.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had this message for Singaporeans yesterday, as they welcomed new citizens at two separate National Citizenship ceremonies.

Both also called on new citizens to integrate into society, and Mr Lee asked that Singaporeans, too, play a part in helping their new fellow countrymen fit in.

This weekend, 14 such ceremonies will be held across the island, where close to 3,350 new citizens will get their pink identity cards and certificates of citizenship.

Speaking at the Cheng San Community Club at a ceremony for 150 new Singaporeans from Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West, Mr Lee said changing their citizenship was a major decision and was not one that was made lightly.

Those who chose to make Singapore home were not just weighing the benefits and costs but were also declaring that "this is where I belong".

He said: "It's not just a matter of weighing up the benefits and the costs rationally... but committing your heart. What identity you adopt, what values you will make your own, where will your loyalty lie."

Tin Pei Ling: A young politician needs thick skin, and a cause to fight for

In the 2011 General Election, Ms Tin Pei Ling received some of the harshest criticisms levelled at candidates. Then aged 27, she was deemed too young, inexperienced and lacking in substance. She was mocked for owning a Kate Spade handbag. She was shrugged off as having entered politics via her husband Ng How Yue, who was then principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. She was also belittled for riding on the coat-tails of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who led the five-member Marine Parade GRC team to victory. But three years later, Ms Tin, who turned 31 last month, was praised by PM Lee for proving her detractors wrong by being able to connect with her residents and solving their problems. She tells Rachel Au-Yong about her trials, how she coped with the stress of being attacked especially on social media, and whether she would contest a single-seat constituency.
The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

How did you feel when PM Lee praised you last weekend at the opening of the refurbished community club in your MacPherson ward?

Pleasantly surprised. My grassroots leaders, volunteers and myself - we were all very touched and pleased that PM did it.

As you know, I had a tough start in 2011. If not for my team who stood by me, it would have been difficult to arrive at where I am today. So, by PM acknowledging that we had done at least an okay job - that was a morale booster.

Although you seem to have overcome most of the criticisms, many people are still sceptical about your political mandate. Would contesting a single-seat constituency silence your critics?

Hopefully. But nobody can please everyone every time and so, there may be new criticisms that will emerge.

At the end of the day, a politician must be prepared to face such negativity, develop a thick skin and do things for the right reason.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Health subsidies to benefit 1.2m people as pioneers join scheme

This is nearly double the number that qualified for such assistance in Jan
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

ON MONDAY, 1.15 million people will be able to pay less at some GP and dental clinics, as subsidies kick in for 300,000 pioneer generation members.

This is nearly double the number that qualified for such benefits in January.

"In fact, a doctor has actually told me that some pioneers have already called up to pre-book appointments for September," said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday, during a visit to GP and dental clinics in Bedok South.

Now, there are 850,000 people on the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), a nationwide programme for middle- to lower- income households.

This includes 150,000 pioneer generation members who had previously qualified because of their income level or housing type.

The remaining seniors will join the scheme, which gives them subsidies at more than 1,100 participating GP and dental clinics, on Monday.

On the same day, lower- to middle-income Singaporeans will also start getting subsidies of between 60 per cent and 70 per cent at specialist outpatient clinics (SOCs) - more than the 50 per cent subsidy for regular patients.

On top of this, the pioneer generation will get an extra 50 per cent off at these clinics.

But Dr Khor stressed that these additional subsidies are applicable for subsidised bills only.

Those who wish to seek subsidised care should see a polyclinic doctor or - for those who have CHAS cards or belong to the pioneer generation - a GP on the CHAS scheme, she said.

"If need be - if the doctor assesses that they need specialised care - then they can be referred to the SOC for subsidised care," she said.

CHAS scheme: MOH monitors claims by clinics

DR QUEK Koh Choon ("Emphasise ethics in health care"; Aug 15) and Mr Alfred Wong Kwok Wai ("Prevent abuse of subsidy scheme"; Aug 16) raised the concern that some clinics on the Community Health Assist Scheme might mark up their charges for patients claiming CHAS subsidies.

The CHAS scheme has allowed general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics to partner the Ministry of Health (MOH) in making subsidised primary care more accessible to lower- and middle-income Singaporeans within the community.

Come next Monday, all 450,000 pioneer generation Singaporeans will also enjoy subsidised GP and dental services at the CHAS clinics.

MOH agrees that as members of a respected profession, doctors are expected to adhere to the highest standard of professionalism and always act in the best interest of their patients.

The Singapore Medical Council's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines state that doctors cannot abuse the doctor-patient relationship for personal gain. Indeed, the vast majority of our doctors do observe this code and guidelines closely.

Aside from the ethical issues with overcharging, the CHAS claims submitted by clinics are monitored by MOH. Clinics have been and will continue to be called upon to account for any exceptional claims.

Prices charged differ from clinic to clinic and from patient to patient, depending on the condition, treatment provided, medication prescribed and length of consult.

We encourage clinics to display their common charges such as consultation fees prominently, and to address any price concerns that patients may have, especially with regard to the type of medication prescribed and its cost. This will make the charges more transparent to patients.

MOH will continue to monitor the situation. Members of the public can contact us on 1800-ASK-CHAS (1800-275-2427) for more information and to provide feedback.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 30 Aug 2014

Changi General Hospital to get one-stop medical centre

Slated for 2017, it will handle patients with multiple medical conditions
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

PATIENTS at Changi General Hospital (CGH) with many medical conditions will have it easier when CGH opens a new one-stop medical centre in 2017.

Instead of having different appointments and going from clinic to clinic, patients will be able to make fewer hospital visits and head to just one place when they do so. The new $220 million, nine-storey centre located next to the main CGH building will house specialist outpatient clinics and about 140 consultation rooms. It is expected to host 400,000 patient visits a year.

Patients who have various ailments, for example diabetes sufferers who also have kidney or heart problems, will go under the care of one main doctor at the centre. This doctor will work with other doctors and nurses involved in treating the patient for different conditions, to come up with just one care plan for the patient.

"It is increasingly common for patients to suffer from not just one but multiple conditions, for which they need to consult several doctors," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a ceremony yesterday where plans for the centre were announced. "Each doctor may prescribe a different care plan and this can confuse patients and affect how they receive treatment and the outcome," he said.

The chief executive of CGH, Dr Lee Chien Earn, said the hospital planned this centre because it is seeing more patients with multiple conditions. Last year, CGH saw 13,500 such patients, up from 11,900 the year before.

Mr Hey Bong Koi, 66, who sees various specialists at another hospital for ailments such as heart problems, stomach inflammation and asthma, said such a centre will be helpful.

"When a health problem crops up, I don't know which specialist to see and sometimes I forget to tell this doctor about a new medication that another doctor put me on, and this is dangerous because the different medications may be incompatible," said the retiree.

Too young to go under the knife

By Salma Khalik Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

THERE are some things that youth should not be exposed to, too early in life - smoking, drinking and cosmetic procedures are among them.

And just as there are laws to prevent those who are under 18 years old from buying alcoholic drinks and cigarettes, so too should there be a ban on children and teenagers under 18 going for cosmetic treatments.

The popularity of cosmetic procedures among youth has shot up in the United States, and possibly here.

Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that 230,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients under 18 years of age in the United States in 2011 - up from just 14,000 in 1996.

This led a team headed by Dr Ng Jia Hui of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to look into how popular cosmetic treatments are among youth here.

They surveyed 1,164 junior college and 241 medical school students and found that one in three junior college students and one in four medical students approve of their peers going for such treatment.

Only 14 admitted to having had such procedures. The three favourite areas for treatment were the nose, eyes and skin.

Also, one in nine JC students and one in six medical students "were keen on body contouring of areas such as the thighs, buttocks and abdomen", the team said in an article in the August edition of the Singapore Medical Journal.

The team of three doctors and a dentist added: "A large percentage of the JC students did not have any knowledge of the risks associated with cosmetic procedures.

"Even among the medical students, 35.7 per cent of the students were unaware of any risks."

And among those who said they were aware of the risks, not all knew what the real risks were.

President's Award for Teachers 2014

Inspiring teachers win awards
Five honoured for their innovative teaching methods to engage students
By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

PUPILS in Ms Sim Lucy's Chinese class at Guangyang Primary are sometimes seen raising their arms or even throwing a punch.

They are not asking questions - or being naughty - but obediently learning Chinese using a set of hand actions developed by Ms Sim to help her charges remember how to write Chinese characters.

A punch represents a dot, while a raised arm stands for "shu" or a vertical line in Chinese script.

Ms Sim, 49, has also written songs using phrases lower primary children have to learn. They learn while singing in class.

"I didn't like Chinese when I first started, but lessons are now fun and I am more attentive in Chinese class," said eight-year- old Alegria Lim.

Said Ms Sim: "Students these days are not like before, they don't just sit down and listen to you, you really have to engage them."

For her efforts, she received the President's Award for Teachers yesterday.

Four others - Madam Linda Lim from Chongzheng Primary, Ms Rezia Rahumathullah from Da Qiao Primary, Ms Wendy Wong from Geylang Methodist Secondary and Dr Muhammad Nazir Amir from Greenview Secondary - also won the award this year.

They received the award from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday.