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Singapore health workers speak out on exclusion from COVID-19 National Awards

Amid reports of people selling their COVID-19 Resilience Awards, an open letter, purportedly from healthcare workers to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Ministry of Health, conveys a sense of being overlooked.

Despite their sacrifices during the pandemic, their exclusion from the COVID national awards has sparked frustration.

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COVID-19 National Awards

SINGAPORE: The recent news that individuals are selling their COVID-19 Resilience Medals on Carousell has not only caused a stir among netizens, but it has also elicited backlash from healthcare workers against the authorities.

According to an open letter, these workers, who toiled throughout the pandemic, feel unrecognized by the country in the national awards.

In a move to honour those who played pivotal roles in Singapore’s battle against COVID-19, the government introduced the COVID-19 Resilience Medal and COVID-19 Resilience Certificate as National Awards in December last year.

Prime Minister Lee had earlier announced the introduction of a special state award known as the COVID-19 Resilience Medal during his National Day Rally speech on 21 August 2022.

The COVID-19 Resilience Medal and COVID-19 Resilience Certificate are novel national awards designed to commend the significant contributions of individuals and teams who were directly involved in Singapore’s fight against COVID-19.

A total of 119,950 individuals and 1,550 teams have been bestowed with these prestigious awards across 11 categories.

Notably, The Prime Minister’s Office does not specify the process for the nomination and awarding the COVID-19 Resilience Medal and Certificate.

Open letter expresses discontent over exclusion from COVID-19 Resilience Awards to government

Amidst the news of individuals selling their medals, a disheartening sentiment of exclusion has surfaced, particularly among health workers who have yet to be honoured.

On thehonesthealthcareworker Instagram account (17 Dec), an open letter addressed to Minister Ong Ye Kung and the Ministry of Health (MOH) has shed light on the issue of frontliners who feel overlooked in the award recognition process.

The content of the open letter notes that, despite the numerous individuals receiving awards, a considerable number of health workers remain conspicuously absent from the list.

This underscores the substantial presence of dedicated health workers who actively served during the onset of the pandemic in Singapore.

The letter vividly expresses the frustration and sense of being ‘forgotten’ by those health workers who have not received their deserved awards, even as their colleagues are recognized.

It emphasizes the significant contributions of health professionals who served in isolation wards, provided rehabilitation in pandemic wards, administered care and medication, and transported patients in ambulances.

The letter underscores the sheer numbers, stating, “There’s more of us– too many to name.”

A plea for recognition and fair acknowledgment amidst COVID-19 Resilience Awards

The self-professed health workers in the letter describe patiently waiting for their turn to be acknowledged, but to their dismay, it never came.

They express their commitment to duty, mentioning contact tracers, swabbers, home recovery coordinators, essential service workers, safe distancing ambassadors, and educators who all played vital roles in combating the pandemic.

The letter reveals the confusion and disappointment of health workers who discovered their names omitted from the list of awardees.

They recount providing direct care from the onset of the pandemic, expressing bewilderment at being overlooked and revealing that they were never informed about the nomination process or criteria.

The letter further highlighted the omission of their names, contrasting with the recognition accorded to senior doctors who refused to enter pandemic wards.

This perceived disparity intensifies their frustration, questioning the fairness of the recognition process.

The health workers, in a heartfelt appeal, emphasize that their plea for acknowledgement is not driven by a desire for additional rewards.

They express a humble wish to be recognized and remembered for the sacrifices they made alongside their colleagues, aspiring for their names to be listed alongside those who have been duly acknowledged.

Concluding the letter with a poignant statement, the health workers assert, “For all we’ve done, we deserve to be remembered.”

Reddit discussions unfold regarding open letter addressing health worker recognition

The open letter sparked discussions among Reddit users.

One individual questioned how the Ministry of Health determines who deserves the award, advocating for acknowledgment of all healthcare professionals who worked during the pandemic, regardless of their roles.

This user also emphasized the mental strain on health workers and their families due to the chaotic and distressing situations caused by the pandemic.

Additionally, the suggestion was made to consider providing monetary rewards instead of medals, acknowledging the challenging circumstances faced by those working in hospitals.

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Others pointed out that the oversight extended beyond hospital staff to include airport and hotel staff.

One user highlighted the contributions of airport staff, managing flights during the circuit breaker, and cleaning in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear.

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Another user mentioned the hotel staff converted to quarantine facilities, supporting hospitals when they reached capacity.

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Several users noted that the open letter itself mentioned the reason for the omission – the sheer number of individuals deserving recognition.

One user expressed that the statement within the letter about too many deserving individuals essentially summarized the issue.

Another user brought up the aspect of budget limitations, suggesting that there might be too many people deserving awards, but the budget constraints prioritize other expenditures, including high salaries for part-time officials.

The sentiment expressed a concern that the true heroes might not be receiving the recognition they deserve.

Renowned infectious diseases expert, Prof Dr. Paul Tambyah, omitted from 2022 National Awards despite global recognition and impactful contributions

In December last year, PMO declared that over 100,000 individuals would be honoured for their contributions in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH) , was one of the three who will be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (COVID-19) (MSM), the apex of the National Awards (COVID-19) .

In the early stage of COVID outbreak during 2020, Mr Mak once suggested that wearing a mask is not the most important thing to avoid COVID infection, when medical practitioners had warned that deaths from Covid-19 could exceed SARs and advised everyone to wear a mask.

Dr Dale Fisher, a senior consultant at the Division of Infectious Diseases in National University Hospital (NUH), was also given an award.

MOH said Professor Dale Fisher, currently a senior infectious diseases consultant at NUH, advised on strategies to manage the COVID-19 outbreak at foreign worker dormitories, and enhanced risk communication and communication engagement by helping to establish My Brother SG.

But during January 2020, Dale Fisher told the media that wearing masks would give a false sense of security to people.

“Masks, I think by and large, offer a false sense of security in the community,” he said. “I see a lot of people that might have a mask but it might be on their forehead and it might be under their chin.”

But of course, we now understand how incorrect that advice from Mr Mak and Dr Fisher was.

Among the recipients is Li Hongyi, the son of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was also listed as one of the 100,000 individuals receiving special state awards.

Mr Li serves as the director of Open Government Products (OGP), an experimental tech development unit under the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), housed within the PMO.

However, despite the wide scope of awardees, Prof Dr Paul Ananth Tambyah, who is currently serving as a Senior Consultant in the Division of Infectious Diseases at NUH, was conspicuously absent from the list of national award recipients.

Despite his significant contributions in advocating for effective public policies to combat the pandemic, Prof Tambyah was overlooked in the recognition process.

His impactful efforts include research on emerging infectious diseases and hospital-acquired infections. Widely recognized in local media, Prof Tambyah has been a key voice providing professional insights on the pandemic.

In a 2020 Straits Times article, before the Singapore Government mandated face masks, Prof Tambyah correctly emphasized the potential importance of covering the nose based on emerging data about the virus causing COVID-19.

Although initially not awarded, Gutzy understands that Prof Tambyah later accepted the national honour when it was extended to him.

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These health care workers must be speaking out on exclusion because they saw and believe they can genuinely sell the medal for $1m to $1.5m on carousel.

“…Prime Minister Lee had earlier announced the introduction of a special state award known as the COVID-19 Resilience Medal...” ————- Recall Ah Loong addressed the public only about 7-8 times during the worst of the covid period (2019-2020), and about HALF of those times was because of the run-up to GE2020 begging, err… asking for a strong mandate. He was totally invisible during those times when daily infections were in the TRIPLE digits, leaving the public and our healthcare workers to rough it out themselves, while (as someone coined) he adopted a “Bunker Boy” mentality, fronted by his 3 best… Read more »

Why is the PM’s son’s name on it but not those who risked their lives? Cronyism begets mediocrity. Are all the various digital problems dealing with the govt. agencies due to the PM’s son heading the technology department in the father’s office? Facial recognition does not work and implementing it causes delays.

That the SupremeLeader’s son was amongst those “recognised and honoured”, … says it all !!!

Why wouldn’t the “real” frontliners who did “real” work at immense risk to their very own lives, … why wouldn’t they be pissed.

And especially now, … when the Covid cases are on the up and mention of yet, another infectious variant !!!

This regime certainly have a great sense of timing, … and f**k~ups !!!

It is not who to get laxtional award .

It is Who that gets the laxtional award .

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