Chee Hong Tat criticises Paul Tambyah for 'unsubstantiated allegations'

Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat (left) has taken Singapore Democratic Party's Professor Paul Tambyah (right) to task for comments made at a May 1 forum.
Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat (left) has taken Singapore Democratic Party's Professor Paul Tambyah (right) to task for comments made at a May 1 forum. PHOTO: ST FILE, THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat has criticised Professor Paul Tambyah, a senior infectious diseases consultant, for remarks he made about what junior doctors are told when they complain about their work.

Prof Tambyah, who works at the National University Hospital (NUH) and is a member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, had said at a May 1 forum that the doctors "say that every time they complain about conditions in the public hospital, they are told, Oh you know, complain lah, you know we can hire somebody from South or Southeast Asia who is willing to work for $3000 a month."

He also said: "Even in my own field the junior doctors tell me this and I don't know how true it is."

Prof Tambyah made the remarks when he was speaking on how the lack of a minimum wage was affecting junior doctors.

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A minimum wage would level the playing field, he added at the event, which was organised by transitioning.org, a group offering support for the unemployed.

On Friday(May 12), Mr Chee said in a Facebook post that Prof Tambyah, as a senior doctor,should have verified the truth and raised the problem.

"Instead of clarifying the facts with the junior doctors or surfacing his concerns to the management, he chose to repeat unsubstantiated allegations at a public conference.

"I find it disturbing that as a senior doctor, Prof Tambyah does not see anything wrong with this behaviour," he added.

Mr Chee also asked Prof Tambyah for the details of who said and what was said so the ministry can look into the matter.

When contacted on Friday, Prof Tambyah said his comments "are not untrue" and can be substantiated in several doctor chat groups.

He added he had raised the issue with the administrator in question "dozens of times" but to no effect.

Mr Chee also criticised Prof Tambyah for saying socio-political website The Independent had misrepresented him. He said he had heard a recording of Mr Tambyah's speech and found the report accurate.

Prof Tambyah said he was misrepresented as he was referring to a hospital - not NUH - and not the entire public healthcare system.

The Independent reported: "Junior doctors had told him that every time they complain about conditions in public hospitals, the administrators don't seem perturbed by it".