This Hobbit is appreciative of how the government has recognised folks and organisations that have contributed to the battle against the Covid-19 Pandemic by giving out Covid-19 National Awards. But it is important to not just recognise these worthy people and organisations but also to recognise those that were not given. So we start off this year’s Hobbit Awards by giving out
The Covid non-Award Award (Category A)
This award goes out all the Permanent Secretaries in government. Other than the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs and Chairman of the Homefront Crisis Executive Group (same person), none of the other Perm Secs were given any Covid-19 National Award by the government. This hobbit speculates that this glaring omission could only be so because all of them declined to receive any award and only put up the person chairing this powerful Group to receive the award on behalf of all of the others. If so, nice move. I like.
The Covid non-Award Award (Category B)
The President’s Certificate of Commendation is a new award category. It is given to “organisations and teams that made exceptional efforts which had a significant impact in Singapore’s fight against COVID-19”.
481 certificates were given out and this hobbit has no doubt that all of them deserve the award. These include not just teams and departments in the public sector but private companies and NGOs as well. Some recipients include the College of General Dental Practitioners, the General Insurance Association (GIA), the Life Insurance Association (LIA), The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), The Association of Funeral Directors Singapore (AFD) and The Law Society.
Interestingly, none of the major healthcare professional associations such as the SMA, Singapore Dental Association (SDA), Pharmaceutical Society Singapore (PSS), The College of Family Physicians Singapore (CFPS), Academy of Medicine Singapore (AMS) and Singapore Nursing Association (SNA) received the President’s Certificate.
To all these big healthcare-related professional organisations that didn’t receive this prestigious President’s Certificate, never mind lah, this hobbit gives you the not-so-prestigious but very sincere “The Covid non-Award Award (Category B)”
Now, we move on to other awards for 2023
Community Destruction Award
There is a certain private hospital that has either closed or is in the process of closing down the fruit shop, retail pharmacy, doctors’ tea room and a busy branch of a bank located on its premises. This hobbit hopes the management of this hospital knows that when you run a large hospital, you are actually managing a community and fostering its community spirit, and you are not just operating a facility. A community is made up of people. A facility is just brick and mortar.
Once Bitten Twice Shy Award
On 29 Nov 22, Senior Minister of State Dr Koh Poh Koon rejected a proposal by the General Insurance Association (GIA) to “tweaking existing insurance products” to cover gig workers such as ride hailing and on-demand delivery workers as this would lead to higher costs for the platform companies that hire them. (Business Times, 29 Nov 22 : General insurers’ proposals for gig workers not viable or cost-effective: Koh Poh Koon).
More importantly, it was reported in this article that he said, ““GIA’s suggestion of using only existing prolonged medical leave insurance or group personal accident insurance in place of Wica would relegate this to a private insurance policy whose terms and conditions are dictated by the insurer, without a clear mechanism to adjudicate disputes,” he said. “I appreciate why insurers would want more flexibility in how they compensate claims but to ensure fairness to workers and companies, I do not think we should be leaving it to insurers to be the final arbiter of any disputes to work injury claims,” he added, citing possible conflicts of interest.
Dr Koh said the committee also engaged platform workers, who described having to “jump through hoops” to make claims, even giving up on doing so due to the onerous process””
Sounds familiar? His words can also be an accurate description for many cases involving Integrated Shield Plans now, where a platform supposed put in place to handle disputes are voluntary and IP providers can refuse to take part in them. In this hobbit’s opinion, when you can refuse to participate, you are effectively the “final arbiter”, even if a process exists.
Obviously Dr Koh has learnt a few things during his stint in MOH and has now applied them with great clarity in MOM. Bravo. He gets our Once Bitten Twice Shy Award hands-down.
Incidentally and as aforesaid, the GIA received the prestigious President’s Certificate of Commendation (Covid-19) just a few days ago.
Great Singapore Sale Award
The Annual Great Singapore Sale has been in the doldrums for a long time, worsened by the impact of the pandemic. Well, this year’s Sale promises to be briskier and earlier, with relatives and friends of Mainland Chinese buying paracetamol and other flu medicines by the cartloads in Singapore and shipping them back to the Mainland. This hobbit finds it strange that China is supposed to be the Factory of the World, yet they cannot produce enough paracetamol and distribute them accordingly within China?
Most Unwelcome Sequel Award
As Covid-19 Omicron and its variants reap their way through way through China like a ravenous sickle, one cannot but fear that new variants will be created. Just as it happened with Delta in India and Omicron in South Africa. Can China, with its 1.4B population avoid this fate? Will the current China wave prove to be the most unwelcome sequel to Delta and Omicron?
Best Evidence Award
According to Johns Hopkins University statistics, the number of Covid-19 deaths is about 11,800+ deaths in HK so far, arising from a base of 2.6M cases. Most of the deaths occurred during February and April of 2022, peaking on 11 March when 294 deaths occurred in a single day. In Singapore, there have been about 1700+ deaths from a base of 2.2M cases, with deaths a day peaking at 22.
HK’s population is about 37% larger than Singapore’s (7.4M vs 5.4M). Using Singapore Covid-death numbers as a base (1700), it can be extrapolated that HK’s death numbers could have been around 2400 (1.4 x 1700). Instead there are 11,800 deaths or 9400 “excess deaths” when compared to Singapore. These deaths can be largely attributed to a lower vaccination rate among the elderly and a sizeable population receiving less effective vaccines.
These are the numbers that any anti-vaxxers have to satisfy themselves with intellectual honesty that vaccination is bad for people, especially for the elderly before continuing with their counter-truth messages.
Mental Sclerosis Award
There is a nursing shortage worldwide. This country has lost and is still losing nurses, especially foreign ones to other countries that offer superior terms. Either we shape up and rethink how we can keep our experienced foreign nurses or we will have to suffer this continual drain until some crisis occurs (if it hasn’t occurred already). Superior terms do not just include a bigger pay package or more allowances. Superior terms include non-monetary terms, e.g. the ability to bring their family, especially kids along with them to Singapore and to give them access to subsidised education and healthcare.
Also, you really can’t replace a nurse with 5 to 10 years of working experience in our hospitals with a fresh recruit. It takes several years before a foreign nurse understands our working environment and attains a high degree of local-context proficiency. So this explanation that we can address the situation by recruiting 1000 nurses from overseas to replace the 1000 we lost recently doesn’t quite cut it with operators on the ground who know better.
Of course there will be people who will argue that we cannot give these foreign nurses superior terms that are different from workers drawing the roughly the same salaries but working in other sectors and jobs.
To these people, this hobbit confers the Mental Sclerosis Award. Hopefully these folks will never be admitted to a hospital in their entire life and then know what it is to be a patient in an environment that is short of experienced nursing manpower.
Ugly Neighbour Award
Remember how many people criticized the government for not imposing test requirements, restrictions and bans on flights originating from India early enough in the first half of 2021 as the Delta variant (which was first discovered in India) swept through the globe?
Well, obviously India has learnt something from what Singapore did then – it has now very swiftly (on 29 Dec 22) imposed a mandatory negative Covid-19 test result requirement from just 6 places – China, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore. This is to address the large number of cases that are popping up now with the current Covid-19 sweeping through China.
When this old coot of a hobbit was growing up decades ago, this conversation wasn’t quite uncommon or unexpected –
The hobbit, “Hi, I am hobbit from Singapore”,
Reply from American, “Oh, that’s a nice place in China!”
Maybe the Indian authorities today still think likewise.
Coming of Age Award
A generation of doctors was baptised with blood, toil, tears and sweat during the SARS Outbreak of 2003. Another generation of young doctors have since been tested with something far more persistent, pervasive and pernicious than SARS. Their scars may not completely heal even with time and the loss of years and innocence cannot be retrieved. But they continue to stand proud and tall. Going forward, this hobbit has no doubt that they will be more than capable of taking up the mantle of the medical profession from their seniors. They have come of age amid The Pestilence Of This Age.