November Noose

Before we know it, it’s the end of the year again and the year-end holidays are upon us. But there is no letting up in the pace of things and major events and crises continue to befall us. We are not talking about calamities like HDB flat prices falling or international disasters like the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. Such tragedies pale in comparison to the biggest crisis of 2014:

Many NTUC Fairprice supermarkets have run out of toilet paper in late October

No shit. Literally.

How can Fairprice, the largest supermarket chain in Singapore, run out of “pang sai chuah”?

We can run out of rice, MRT trains can stop, SGX can stop trading. But no toilet paper? This has serious public health implications in our Singapore’s fight against SARS, Ebola and whatever viruses that Norton Antivirus cannot kill.  All that shit needs to be dealt with. Do you know how many diseases are spread by the faecal-oral route?

So this Hobbit is totally horrified that toilet paper stocks can actually depleted in Singapore, where we have enough N95 masks but apparently not enough loo paper. (N95 masks can also filter out 95% of faecal matter, I suppose). It’s enough to make a hobbit constipated.

But to lighten things up, at the end of the year in mid-December, the biggest movie of the year, the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies, will hit the big screen. This Hobbit will be there.

Peter Jackson will really let it rip here with all kinds of monsters and humanoid and humans slugging it out for 45 minutes in the finale. And you know what? These guys do NOT run out of toilet paper.

While we are on the subject of paper, it is also timely to point out there is another kind of shortage of paper. Many hospitals and clinics have also run out of A4 size printer paper and printer toner.

This has been caused by doctors trying to print out the draft SMC Ethical Code and Professional Standards (ECPS) which runs to about 110 pages long. Many trees have been felled in the process and this has contributed to global warming and even the haze in early November (Whoever heard of haze in November till now?). Numerous toner cartridges have been expended in the process and small desk jet printers that are commonly being used in clinics have overheated.

This is an ecological disaster in the making. The Ewoks are crying, folks. All because some wise guy decided to write an Ethical Code and Professional Guidelines that is longer than a Taiwanese afternoon Hokkien TV serial.

Folks that have finished reading the document have discovered that one or more may have happened in the meantime:

• Murphy Cooper is now a great-great-grandmother in Interstellar 3

• Jurong General Hospital is finally operational

• Yoda has reincarnated itself as Mickey Mouse in Star Wars Episode IX and most importantly of all,

• The grass has actually grown to a respectable height in our new National Stadium

Actually this Hobbit wonders if ALL the SMC members have read through the entire draft ECPS? Seriously folks….

For those that have actually printed out the document, here are some suggested uses for this document after you have read it:

• Use it as a doorstop

• Wrapping fish with it till 2020AD or till the City Harvest trial is over, whichever comes first

• Seventh Month burnt offering for your least favourite relative

• Lethal weapon for pummeling a cockroach to pulp

The next big thing that happened recently is the ban on Shisha tobacco smoking in Singapore. I must declare my vicarious conflict of interest here. Many hobbits are not averse to the occasional puff. But despite this, it is indeed good public health policy to ban the stuff before it takes root in a big way like cigarette smoking. In addition to banning Shisha, this hobbit also suggests that the MOH consider banning the following idiotic stuff:

a) ACGME-I Residency

b) Licensing Exams

c) Hello Kitty Runs

d) Any managed care plans that reimburses the doctor ten bucks or less for consultation

e) 110-page documents that cannot be printed by a small deskjet printer

Shisha is the lesser of all these ills….

We move onwards to the international arena. The newly-elected Prime Minister of India has appointed a minister to oversee Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga. The minister of state, Mr Shripad Naik has been tasked to oversee the new ministry called the Department of AAYUSH. AAYUSH stands for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy.

Actually, we can learn from the Indians. We can also appoint a minister of state to run the Department of AIYAH, not AAYUSH. This department will be overseeing the implementation of the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) and Medishield Life (MSL).  The PGP has generated many AIYAHs in the land as it is being implemented now. The PGP was launched to much fanfare a few months ago. But our pioneers have come to realise that the PGP has some obvious limitations:

• It only covers subsidized care. If you want to continue with senior consultant Prof Chin Boh Eng, you have to continue seeing Prof Chin at the private clinic. PGP doesn’t cover the consultation, investigations and medicines at the private clinics. I.e. you still pay what you have been paying before PGP was implemented.

• It obviously doesn’t help the pioneer much who wants to be admitted into a private ward class for now. Let’s see what happens when the MSL is implemented next year.

• Even if you are being treated at the subsidised specialoist outpatient clinic, PGP doesn’t cover the cost of medications until 2015. For now, it only covers consultations and investigations. Why the PGP is being implemented in such a phased manner is really quite a mystery. Please ‘tahan’ for now.

• The PGP also doesn’t give you additional discounts at the Polyclinics if you choose to be seen at the Family Physician Clinics.  You have to be seen at the general clinics manned by MO at the polyclinics.

So, despite all the initial goodwill that was generated by the PGP, there are now many choruses of “AIYAHs” being sighed aloud all over the island. “AIYAH, talk so much, but in the end, still this cannot, that cannot” is being refrained by many pioneers as they discover the fine print intricacies of PGP.

That’s not to say PGP is not good. The PGP is doing a lot of good. But the public messaging could have been clearer from the onset so as to better manage expectations.

Well, that’s about it for November. 2014 had its fair share of humour and frustration. Let’s hope 2015 will be better. Hope springs eternal. In the meantime, remember, the Force will always be with you.  Actually what I meant was, the SMC will always be with you.

2015 will be a momentous year mainly because Episode VII of the Star Wars, The Force Awakens will be released. The first part of the final trilogy may include the following:

• Donald Duck and Goofy as Jedi Masters doing a  Disney Crossover and teaching the youngling recruits to use the Force to levitate the draft ECPS (only slightly heavier than an X-wing starfighter).

• Mark Hammil reprising his role as Luke Skywalker and teaching the three children of Han Solo and Princess Leia the finer skills of Shisha smoking in Yoda’s old hut amid the swamps of Dagobah.

• Chewbacca running out of toilet paper on the Millennium Falcon in a zero-gravity environment in hyperspace.

• A geriatric Harrison Ford making out with a postmenopausal (but still bikini-clad) Carrie Fisher after they get their PGP card.

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