Sunday 22 February 2015

Mr Lee Kuan Yew in SGH with severe pneumonia

Mr Lee remains critically ill for a third day
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2015

FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew remained critically ill in hospital for a third day yesterday, as the police warned against spreading falsehoods and said they would relentlessly track down those who doctored a government website to spread false information about Mr Lee.

Meanwhile, get-well wishes poured in from people in Singapore and abroad. Many from overseas expressed their concern for his health on social media and wrote admiringly of his leadership.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing that "we are concerned over Mr Lee Kuan Yew's health condition".

"Mr Lee laid the foundations for Sino-Singapore bilateral ties and actively advanced mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation. He made important contributions to the progress of bilateral ties," he said.

Mr Lee, 91, has been in intensive care at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) since Feb 5, when he was admitted for severe pneumonia.

Yesterday, the scene at the SGH lobby was quite unlike that of the previous evening, when crowds gathered after the Government announced that his condition had deteriorated further.

Security guards and police officers discouraged loiterers.

But a few members of the public felt compelled to linger a bit.

They included Mr Lionel de Souza, 72, the vice-president of Singapore Police Retirees' Association, who was in Mr Lee's team of bodyguards when Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965.

"He's been very kind to me. Every year, he sends me a letter he personally signs when I wish him happy birthday," he said.

"He's a good man. He had to act in that way in those days. We had nothing in Singapore. If not for him, I'd probably be a foreign worker digging a drain in another country.

"We're lucky we had a leader who worked together with a good team, and here we are today. I'm happy. So I come here to say a little prayer for him," he added.

Retiree Teo Kwee Lock, 67, who travelled from his home in Bedok to SGH, said he was grateful to Mr Lee for Singapore's sound policies and rule of law.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching visited Mr Lee yesterday.

Earlier in the morning, the police told The Straits Times that they take "a very stern view against anyone who doctors a government website to spread false information to deceive the public".

Assistant Commissioner of Police Melvin Yong was referring to a hoax website with the logo of the Prime Minister's Office which announced on Wednesday night that Mr Lee had died.

Mr Yong, director of the police public affairs department, said: "We will spare no effort to bring them to task. We also advise the public not to spread falsehoods."

In a Facebook post early yesterday morning, Ms Ho Ching expressed hope that the fake news would be "clearing off the airwaves" and thanked everyone for their prayers.

Concern mounts amid outrage at rumours
Readers slam ingratitude of those who propagated misinformation
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor

AS FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew remains critically ill at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), Singaporeans have become increasingly anxious for news about his condition.

Yesterday though, there was a strong sense of outrage among many, over the flurry of rumours and hoaxes that flew via smartphones and social media on Wednesday night announcing that he had died.

Some seasoned grassroots leaders were among those taken in by a fake announcement purportedly on the website of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), and some foreign media went ahead and reported the misinformation, only to set it right after the PMO made clear that it was a hoax.

Tanjong Pagar GRC grassroots leader Roy Yeo told The Straits Times: "Some of us got duped seeing the image passed around, trusting that once you see a certain website, it is genuine."

Reader Tan Suan Jin wrote to The Straits Times Forum Page, saying: "It is appalling and in bad taste that as former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's condition deteriorates further, and when the majority of Singaporeans and many around the world are wishing him well, there are those who have the temerity and ingratitude to falsify a death notice."

Reader Patrick Tan Siong Kuan also wrote in, saying he hoped the authorities would find the culprits and take "firm action".

Hoaxes aside, it was plain that concern over Mr Lee's health went up considerably after the PMO revealed on Tuesday that his condition had worsened.

Mr Lee, 91, has been seriously ill in hospital with severe pneumonia since Feb 5 and Singaporeans have been sending him get-well wishes for several weeks. But this week it began to sink in that the end might be near for the nation's key founding father.

Tuesday's PMO statement said his health had taken a turn for the worse because of an infection. More updates have followed since, with no sign that he was improving.

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong changed the profile picture on his Facebook page, which many read as a hint of the mood among family members and a sign that they were preparing for the worst.

He replaced his cheerful photograph with one of him looking atypically sombre. His wife, Ms Ho Ching, replaced her picture with one of a lotus.

At SGH, a crowd of around 100, including many ordinary people, gathered in the evening. Many wore grim expressions, hoping to be the first to hear fresh news or catch a glimpse of family members visiting. PM Lee visited his father with his wife.

Pictures of the crowd at SGH circulated via smartphones and social media through Wednesday night, as news spread that servicemen in certain units had been told to be on standby.

The SGH crowd dispersed after visiting hours were over at 8.30pm and hospital staff and police told people to go home.

Yesterday, though, there were far fewer people. PM Lee and his wife visited again.

The rumours and hoaxes on Wednesday night began circulating after someone - or some group - doctored a 2010 release from the PMO homepage announcing Mrs Lee Kuan Yew's passing to report falsely that Mr Lee had died.

That image was circulated widely and led to the PMO clarifying that it was not true. The PMO also made a police report.

Prominent blogger mrbrown weighed in on Twitter, saying: "Please stop posting the fake PMO screen. It says MRS Lee in the URL."

However, a number of foreign media outlets, including American news network CNN and China's CCTV, Sina and Phoenix Chinese News, went ahead and reported Mr Lee's passing on Twitter and in television news reports.

The Chinese outlets later apologised and retracted the information, but CNN sparked anger among some netizens here when it posted on its breaking news Twitter account: "Reports emerge questioning purported government message about Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew's health."

Reflecting a view of many who wondered why CNN did not correct the earlier misinformation right away, Ms Joy Lee said on the CNN Breaking News Twitter site: "You didn't realise it was a hoax? That's seriously hopeless and irresponsible."

CNN later deleted its original tweet and ran a report citing a government spokesman who dismissed the doctored image as a hoax.

Mr Lee's deteriorating health has drawn media interest from around the world, with newspapers from Indonesia to the United States devoting prime space to reports on his health.

British newspaper The Guardian ran a piece titled "Singapore prepares for life after founding father Lee Kuan Yew", noting that he had "receded from public life in recent times, but he remains a revered figure in the country he led for 31 years".

In an article titled "Singapore tries to imagine a future without its founder, Lee Kuan Yew", the Washington Post said Mr Lee's departure could have implications for the US. "Although Singapore is not a treaty ally, Washington has for decades relied on (Mr) Lee to interpret events in Asia for it," the paper said.

Indonesian newspaper Kompas reported on its website that Mr Lee was a close friend of former president Suharto, and remains one of the longest-serving MPs in the world, having represented Tanjong Pagar since April 2, 1955.

As Singaporeans and the rest of the world wait for news about Mr Lee's health, many here have begun reflecting on what he means to them and to the nation.

Ms Lily Tan went to PM Lee's Facebook page and said: "PM Lee, whatever the significance of changing your profile picture at this time, perhaps it is to reflect your mood at the moment, please be assured that we feel the same way as you do now - because your Father is also Father to all Singaporeans."

Many penned tributes on their own Facebook pages. A Facebook community called Thank You Mr Lee Kuan Yew, that was set up late last month, has attracted some 63,000 "likes".

Inevitably, there have been some people making nasty comments online, only to be quickly set right by others such as Mr Jackson Yap, who wrote: "For goodness sake, be gracious and have a sense of gratitude for the good that he has done for all of us in Singapore."

And there was Mr Ganesh Sundram, who wrote in a Facebook note: "Let's show a little bit of gratefulness. Whether he did right or wrong, the man who gave us this quality of life has reached the end of the tunnel. Let him go in peace and respect."

Yesterday evening, PM Lee updated his Facebook page with a photo of the sun setting over Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Bishan.

He had taken the picture while on a walk in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park last June.

He wrote: "A beautiful and serene sunset closing a long and full day."

Lee Kuan Yew's condition slightly improved, says PM's office
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2015

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's condition has improved slightly, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said yesterday.

He remains sedated and on mechanical ventilation in the Intensive Care Unit at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). He is also continuing with his antibiotics, the statement said.

Mr Lee, 91, was admitted to SGH on Feb 5 with severe pneumonia. News of his condition has led to an outpouring of good wishes and prayers for his recovery at public events, online and in the social media.

But yesterday, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong told reporters that while it is natural for people to talk and speculate about Mr Lee's health, rumours are unhelpful.

And "people sometimes go one step too far".

He urged everyone to go by official statements.

"It's not that people rumour-monger on purpose. (But) in the absence of announcements and given the condition of Mr Lee, people always expect something may happen to him suddenly," he said after a lunch event.

"But I would advise people to go by (the) official statement from the PMO. If there's no statement, there's nothing much to worry about. Don't just jump to the wrong conclusion."

He said Mr Lee, at 91, is remarkable: "His brain is still very active. He is still in ICU but stabilised as far as I can understand."

Yesterday's PMO statement drew hundreds of comments and good wishes after being posted on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Facebook page shortly before 9pm.

By 10.45pm, there were over 700 comments, more than 6,500 likes and nearly 300 shares.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew in SGH with severe pneumonia
Admitted on Feb 5, his condition is stable; he is conscious and on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 22 Feb 2015

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is in intensive care with severe pneumonia, and has been warded at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for the past two weeks.

News of his illness was announced by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in a statement yesterday evening, and immediately drew messages of concern, prayers and wishes for a quick recovery online and at constituency events.

Mr Lee, 91, was admitted to hospital on Feb 5, the statement said.

"His condition has stabilised, and he remains on mechanical ventilation in the ICU," it added. "He is conscious and lightly sedated."

A mechanical ventilator takes over the breathing function of the lungs, giving medication time to work and the body time to recover.

The statement also said: "His doctors are continuing to monitor his condition. PMO will keep the public informed of any change."

Mr Lee is an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and, being ill, he is likely to miss this year's Chinese New Year events in his constituency, an area he has represented for the past 60 years since he won the 1955 legislative assembly election.

After the PMO statement was issued, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post that he visited his father at SGH yesterday morning.

PM Lee was himself at SGH last week for surgery to remove his prostate gland, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last month. He was discharged last Wednesday, and his surgeon said he should make a full recovery.

In his Facebook post, PM Lee said he did not see his father on the first day of Chinese New Year, on the advice of both their doctors.

"So, we wished him Happy New Year today, and a smooth recovery," he said. "This was the first year in a long while that we could not attend the Lee family reunion dinner."

Last night, PM Lee responded to well-wishers on Facebook, saying: "Thank you all for your good wishes for my father's recovery. I am deeply touched."

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's ill health has prevented him from attending a number of public and constituency events in recent months.

However, he appeared at the People's Action Party's 60th anniversary celebrations at the Victoria Concert Hall last November, as well as his constituency's Tree Planting Day earlier in the same month.

Last August, he attended Tanjong Pagar GRC's National Day dinner.

But he has missed his constituency's Chinese New Year dinners for the past two years, as he had also been hospitalised during that period.

In 2013, he was admitted for observation after recovering from a suspected episode of a transient ischaemic attack, when blood flow to a part of the brain stops briefly.

Last year, he was admitted for a fever and a bad cough caused by an infection.

Yesterday, many well-wishers hoped that Mr Lee would recover fully to join in the celebrations for Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence.

Wishing him a speedy recovery, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Facebook: "Looking forward to him joining us again soon to celebrate SG50."

Former MP S. Vasoo said: "Knowing him, as a fighter, I think he will have the capacity to fight through this illness that he is facing."

Get-well wishes for Mr Lee
Residents, MPs hope for speedy recovery for Singapore's first prime minister
By Charissa Yong, The Sunday Times, 22 Feb 2015

Deliveryman Ong Eng Hue, a Teck Ghee resident, turned up for the ward's annual Chinese New Year dinner last night hoping to catch a glimpse of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He was slightly disappointed that PM Lee, who went through surgery for prostate cancer a few days ago, could not attend the event as he was recuperating at home.

But when Mr Ong, 56, heard that PM Lee's father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, was hospitalised for severe pneumonia, and had been warded for two weeks, he was shocked. His wife, Madam Zhong Liyu, 47, cupped her hands over her mouth.

Their first question was whether the elder Mr Lee was all right, and how serious his illness was.

"During the National Day Parade last year, you could see him unsteady on his feet, so unlike the fiery person he was when he was younger," Mr Ong said worriedly.

"I admire Mr Lee for the way he helped to build Singapore into the country it is today."

His sentiments were echoed by others at the dinner, where Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, who was standing in for PM Lee, relayed the news of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's illness to the 3,000 Ang Mo Kio GRC residents present.

For many, it was their first time hearing the news, which broke only 11/2 hours before Dr Lam's announcement.

A number of residents interviewed also expressed sadness that the elder Mr Lee was not well enough to usher in Chinese New Year with his family.

Ms Sandra Yeoh, 57, who works in the finance industry, said the news surprised and saddened her.

"It is a pity they (both the elder and younger Mr Lee) couldn't celebrate and have their reunion dinner together," she said.

But Ms Ang Jia Li, 21, a student, said she was glad to hear that the elder Mr Lee's condition had stabilised.

"We would definitely keep Mr Lee in our prayers, regardless of our faiths," she said.

Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Education and Law and an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, told The Sunday Times: "I and all the Tanjong Pagar grassroots leaders wish him a speedy recovery. We are certainly keeping him very much in our thoughts and prayers. Things at the Tanjong Pagar side will continue as usual."

Ms Indranee, who has been conducting Mr Lee's weekly Meet-the- People sessions at Tanjong Pagar- Tiong Bahru ward on his behalf for the past 21/2 years, said it was unlikely Mr Lee would be able to attend the GRC's Chinese New Year dinner later this week, "but we will see".

"What is more important is that he should have sufficient rest to recover," she added.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said on Facebook: "Wishing Mr Lee Kuan Yew speedy recovery... Happy Lunar New Year, Mr Lee!"

Mr Inderjit Singh, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "We are all waiting to see him appear at the National Day celebration this year."

As for Mr Ong, he wished Mr Lee a speedy discharge from hospital, saying: "A Singapore without Mr Lee Kuan Yew would be very strange indeed."

Well wishes pour in as Mr Lee remains in intensive care
By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 27 Feb 2015

Well wishes poured in for former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at a Chinese New Year dinner for Tanjong Pagar and Radin Mas constituents last night.

On a 6m-long banner with the words “Get Well Soon, Mr Lee Kuan Yew”, many among the 1,500 grassroots volunteers and residents at the dinner held at Shelton College International penned messages of encouragement and prayers for Singapore’s founding father, who was admitted to hospital on Feb 5 with severe pneumonia.

Mr Lee, 91, is now in the intensive care unit of Singapore General Hospital and remains sedated and on mechanical ventilation, said the Prime Minister’s Office in a statement yesterday.

His doctors have restarted him on antibiotics, the office added.

At the dinner yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Sam Tan invited residents to join him in wishing Mr Lee a happy Chinese New Year and to wish him well.

Other Tanjong Pagar GRC Members of Parliament, including Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing, were also present at the dinner, during which cultural dances and traditional songs were performed.

Post by TODAY.

Grassroots leaders and residents whom TODAY spoke to expressed worry and concern over Mr Lee’s health, with several describing the former Prime Minister as a father figure to them.

Many long-time residents in the area also missed having the chance to shake hands with Mr Lee at the Lunar New Year celebrations in the constituency.

Businessman Arjan Primalani, 81, who lives in Tanjong Pagar GRC, said many residents felt really sorry upon hearing news of Mr Lee’s hospitalisation.

“He is the founder of Singapore. I have grown up watching him all the time,” said the Radin Mas grassroots volunteer, who wrote prayers on the banner for Mr Lee to recover and be able to take part in Singapore’s jubilee celebrations.

Grassroots leader Liferm Yeo, 34, added: “As a founder of this country, it would be very meaningful for him. It is also meaningful for us to be able to celebrate it with our founding father. We wish the best for him.”

What is pneumonia?
By Salma Khalik, The Sunday Times, 22 Feb 2015

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, usually caused by bacteria or a virus. In severe cases, it can result in respiratory failure, and the patient will require mechanical ventilation to help him breathe.

The ventilator takes over the breathing function of the lungs and gives the medication - such as antibiotics, in the case of a bacterial infection - time to work and the body time to recover.

Antibiotics usually take about two to three days to become effective. Dr Lee Yeow Hian, a respiratory physician and internist in private practice, said about four out of five patients with severe pneumonia recover and go home.

But there could be some damage to the lungs that could cause breathlessness.

Patients who remain on a ventilator for weeks also risk getting another bug from the equipment - called ventilator acquired pneumonia - that could prolong the illness.

Dr Lee, who has clinics at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Mount Alvernia Hospital, said patients can get two bouts or more of the disease from different bugs. They could get pneumonia caused by a virus, and in their weakened state, catch a bacterial infection.

He said how well a person does depends on various factors, such as how fit the person is to start with, and how aggressive the bug causing the pneumonia is.

He added that so long as the patient remains on life support, the condition is considered critical, as "things can change very fast".

According to the Health Ministry, nearly one in five deaths in 2013 was caused by pneumonia, the second-highest cause of death in Singapore after cancer.

The Health Promotion Board recommends that people aged 65 and above get vaccinated for pneumococcal pneumonia, which is one of the most common bacteria causing pneumonia.

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