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Healthcare workers’ Instagram exposes flaws in MOH’s COVID-19 Medal criteria with prominent doctor’s case

Contrary to MOH’s position on the inclusivity of the COVID-19 Resilience Medal award process, the Instagram page @thehonesthealthcareworker brought forth the case of Dr. Sanjeev Shanker, an Emergency Medicine Specialist deeply involved in Singapore’s pandemic response.

Despite his significant contributions, Dr. Shanker was perplexed about his exclusion from the award recipients. His story, shared by the Instagram account, underscores a broader issue faced by many frontliners who feel overlooked despite their sacrifices.

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An Instagram page highlighted the flawed response from the Ministry of Health (MOH) regarding the awarding of the COVID-19 Resilience Medal on Thursday (21 Dec), shortly after TODAY published an article featuring the ministry’s assertion that it sought to be as inclusive as possible while ensuring that standards were met and the process was rigorous.

MOH acknowledged on Wednesday (20 Dec) to the online publication that not everyone who contributed to Singapore’s fight against the infectious disease was awarded the medal.

This acknowledgment came in response to TODAY’s queries following an anonymous group of healthcare workers penning an open letter addressed to the ministry and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, questioning why many pandemic frontliners were excluded from the award.

The letter, published earlier on Monday by the Instagram account @thehonesthealthcareworker, also urged MOH to clarify the nomination process for the awards. This request was made in light of emerging stories about individuals selling their COVID-19 award medals on Carousell.

“That is why we always emphasize that awards to leaders and organizations are always received on behalf of everyone who worked in the teams,” MOH said, adding that it was a “whole-of-society” effort that allowed the country to emerge stronger from the pandemic.

More than 110,000 people have been awarded COVID-19 Resilience Medals, which honour individuals and teams who have made substantive contributions to Singapore’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The medals were given out during a carnival event at the F1 Pit Building from 10 to 14 December.

According to TODAY, one of the healthcare workers who runs the Instagram account told the publication that the group penned the letter after more than 100 frontline workers—including nurses, doctors, swabbers, and social workers—contacted them about being left out of the awards.

The letter said, “We were providing direct care together at the front when COVID first hit us until it became endemic. We were here. How is it that we were forgotten?”

“We know in our hearts that we did our part… All we wish for is to be recognized and remembered for the sacrifices we made… so that our children will find our names when they look back one day and know that we served our country and did our duty when Singapore needed us most.”

In its response to TODAY’s queries, MOH said it took an approach to be as inclusive as possible when conferring the COVID-19 Resilience Medals while maintaining a rigorous nomination process.

There are also no quotas set on the number of people who received the award.

“Naturally, eligibility criteria would need to be set,” it added.

To qualify for the award, individuals must have, on a sustained basis during the pandemic, managed the public health crisis at the frontlines, supported frontline operations such as vaccination, testing, managing dormitories, or recovery facilities, or managed the consequences of COVID-19 on Singapore’s economy, supply chains, or social cohesion, MOH said.

Public and private healthcare institutions and relevant industry partners were asked to submit their nominations from October last year to March this year to MOH.

“The nominating institution or agency must assess that the awardees had consistently managed an exceptionally high workload due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with justification required for each nominee,” MOH said.

On May 31, the list of awardees was published in the Government Gazette and on the Prime Minister’s Office website.

Between then and the end of August, MOH added more awardees from the healthcare sector following their appeals for the COVID-19 Resilience Medal “in the spirit of being inclusive.”

MOH did not mention how many more awardees were added during this stage.

It added that those who have yet to collect their medals, including former employees, will be contacted by their respective healthcare institutions and agencies to arrange for direct collection from these institutions.

MOH then stated that it wanted to put on record its thanks to all who have made contributions and sacrifices to keep Singapore safe.

“It was indeed a whole-of-society effort that has enabled Singapore to emerge stronger from the pandemic.”

Instagram page counters MOH’s narrative

Contrary to MOH’s position, @thehonesthealthcareworker shared the example of Dr Sanjeev Shanker, an Emergency Medicine Specialist who was actively involved in the efforts in Singapore to fight the pandemic.

In an email that the Instagram account shared, Dr Shanker queried why he was not eligible for the COVID Resilience Medal.

He noted that he had been involved in the national effort to manage COVID since the start of the pandemic.

Listing his past contributions, it is pointed out that Dr Shanker:

  1. Worked in Sengkang General Hospital A&E as a specialist.
  2. Was involved in managing the first foreign worker dormitory COVID-19 outbreak at the Punggol S11 dormitory as part of the Sengkang Hospital team.
  3. Was an emergency medicine specialist involved in the care of the largest COVID-19 facility at the Singapore Expo.

The Instagram page further pointed out the glaring omission given how Dr Shanker had been featured as one of the poster boys for COVID-19 vaccines by the Singapore government.

But instead of suggesting that the healthcare workers are asking for fame and attention to be awarded the medals, as pointed out by @thehonesthealthcareworker, the page wrote:

“We want to share his story because there are hundreds of other forgotten frontliners who met the criteria but will never openly come forward for fear of appearing hard up for a medal. It was never about that.”

The page also wrote, “It has always been about equal treatment and rightful recognition that those who truly served were there. That award is proof positive that they were individuals who meet the criteria and deserve to be honored for their sacrifice and service.”

“We humbly ask that the Ministry create a channel to let all forgotten come forward to be rightfully recognized.”

Comments by other healthcare workers in the comments section also pointed out how they did not receive the awards despite the contributions they made during the pandemic.

 

One prominent example of this, apart from Dr Shanker, is Professor 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, it is understood that Prof Tambyah later accepted the national honour when it was extended to him — likely due to the public controversy generated online.

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Chow local Sinkie.
No wonder low ses breed is truly low ses breed.
While the Elite stays in landed and GCB, these low ses breed can make noise over a piece of crap metal as to who to give or who should or should not get?

One piece of chow metal worth crap also can make issue out of it.
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Basing on historical public empirical behaviours, who can be more trusted with the truths? Politicians who tell the dead truths isbloke the moon fall from its orbit crashing down to earth one day.

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