Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in stable condition, will remain in ICU for some time: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat collapsed after suffering a stroke during a weekly Cabinet meeting on May 12, 2016.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat collapsed after suffering a stroke during a weekly Cabinet meeting on May 12, 2016. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is in a stable condition and will remain in the intensive care unit of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (May 13).

Mr Lee said he had visited Mr Heng, who collapsed on Thursday during a Cabinet meeting after suffering a stroke.

"He was sedated. His condition is stable, but he will remain in the ICU for some time. He is in very good hands, like all patients at the National Neuroscience Institute," he said in a Facebook post.

He added : "I also spoke with Swee Keat's family. It is a tough time for them. They are touched by the sympathy and support from so many Singaporeans, and asked me to thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes. We all hope Swee Keat will have a full and smooth recovery."

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, also visited Mr Heng on Saturday (May 14) evening. He is relieved to know that Mr Heng's condition is stable, and wrote in a Facebook post that Mr Heng is being well cared for by his family members and the medical staff at the ICU.

Mr Heng collapsed on Thursday afternoon during a Cabinet meeting after suffering a sudden stroke.

 
 

He was immediately attended to by three doctors in Cabinet: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State Janil Puthucheary. Dr Ng, a former cancer surgeon, had said they managed to resuscitate him.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office later said his stroke was due to the rupture of an aneurysm, which is a localised weakening of a blood vessel.

Mr Heng underwent initial neurosurgery on Thursday evening to relieve pressure in his brain due to the bleeding. The aneurysm was also successfully closed.

On Friday evening, the Inter-Religious Organisation organised an event to pray for Mr Heng's smooth recovery. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who attended the event, said: "We hope and pray for his swift recovery, and we all have some faith in his recovery."

He added that Mr Heng represents "the best in all of us, humble, someone who is able to overcome adversity... someone who has ability to work with everyone, people of different faiths, ethnic groups, people from all walks of life".

Mr Heng represents "the best in Singapore, someone we all aspire to", Mr Tharman added.

Also at the event was Mr Baey Yam Keng, Mr Heng's fellow MP in Tampines GRC. Mr Baey said he saw Mr Heng at various meetings and community events over the weekend. He added: "We all know he has heavy responsibilities as a minister. He travels quite a lot and yet, he still spends time for his constituency. We hope he recovers well and recovers fully."

Representatives from all 10 faiths in the IRO were at the organisation's headquarters in the Ministry of National Development building in Maxwell Road. Mr Foo Check Woo, 60, president of the IRO and a representative of the Baha'i faith, said Mr Heng's Cabinet colleagues have called for prayers, "so we thought we should come together as an inter-faith community to pray for his quick recovery".

Members of Parliament and grassroots leaders were told on Friday to put off their visits until a later date.

Mr Patrick Tan, chairman of the Tampines Central Community Club Management Committee, said: "We plan to visit, but definitely not today, have been told not to disturb him... I've worked with him since 2011. He's a very committed man, very busy in terms of schedule, but always committed."

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah said: "I think the family needs some space and privacy because it must obviously have been a great shock to them, and they will be focusing on Swee Keat's recovery."

She added: "My heart really goes out to the family right now. We have also been receiving so many enquiries about Swee Keat's health and good wishes for his recovery. It shows how much he has touched people with his work."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and MP for Tampines GRC Masagos Zulkifli also announced that former Tampines GRC MP Sin Boon Ann, who was MP from 1997 to 2011, has been made second adviser to Tampines Central grassroots organisations, to assist the team.

Throughout Friday, concerned Singaporeans turned up at the hospital to ask about Mr Heng's condition. A table was set up in the hospital's Heritage Museum for them to leave their flowers, cards and gifts.

 
 

Gardens by the Bay chief operating officer Felix Loh Chee Wai and his colleagues were among those who were there.

Mr Loh, who had shown Mr Heng around the gardens earlier this year, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Heng and his family. We brought tulips from our flower field, which I know the family loves very much. Hope that he will get well soon."

DPM Tharman is covering Mr Heng's duties as Finance Minister.

Mr Heng had taken over the finance portfolio last year from Mr Tharman, after the September General Election. He presented his maiden Budget on March 24.

He also chairs the Committee on the Future Economy, tasked to restructure the economy to keep Singapore competitive and thriving.

Mr Heng is a core member of PM Lee's fourth generation team, and has been identified as a potential candidate for the top job by some analysts.

Since entering politics in 2011, he has handled major initiatives, including heading the committee that oversaw the events to celebrate Singapore's 50 years of independence, and also helmed heavyweight ministries.