Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday sent a letter of appreciation to Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Commissioner Eric Yap to thank the paramedics who responded when Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat collapsed during a Cabinet meeting last Thursday.
"They were competent and confident, a credit to the SCDF, the life saving force," Mr Lee said on his Facebook page, where he shared the letter.
He identified the four officers who attended to Mr Heng in the Istana Cabinet room as staff sergeants Janice Lee Yi Ping and Mohd Imran Abd Samad, full-time national serviceman corporal Ian Lok Yu Hern, and trainee Sheena Chiang Yanpin.
In his letter, Mr Lee gave an account of what happened that day, and how Minister of State Janil Puthucheary was critical in coming to Mr Heng's aid. Dr Janil is a paediatrician who became an MP in 2011 and took office in January as Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information.
Mr Lee said that when Mr Heng, 54, collapsed at 5.34pm, 995 was called at once. The SCDF team responded within seven minutes.
"When they entered the Cabinet room, Dr Janil was already resuscitating Mr Heng using the bag and mask resuscitation kit that the security team had on hand," Mr Lee wrote.
"Seeing that Dr Janil was already managing the patient with the appropriate equipment, the team supported Dr Janil and performed other tasks as per protocol, recording what happened and monitoring the vitals."
Mr Lee noted that SSG Lee had questioned Dr Janil as she saw that he was not following the standard procedure.
"Janice observed that Dr Janil was deviating from the paramedic SOP and appropriately asked him if he was bagging the patient too fast," he wrote. "Dr Janil shared his presumptive diagnosis and explained that he was hyper-ventilating the patient to relieve pressure on the brain and reduce the swelling."
Satisfied with Dr Janil's explanation, SSG Lee continued to support him in maintaining and securing Mr Heng's airway, including assisting him in inserting a laryngeal mask. The SCDF team then took the lead and transferred Mr Heng to an ambulance, which took him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, with Dr Janil supporting them in the vehicle.
"My colleagues and I observed how your team kept their cool and were in control throughout the incident, working as a team with Dr Janil. Each knew their roles, and all had the presence of mind to stay completely focused on the patient," Mr Lee wrote.
"It is never easy to attend to a resuscitation, and the active involvement of a clinician already on scene can make it more difficult.
"Your team was highly competent and professional, unfazed by their surroundings or the presence of the ministers. They asserted themselves where necessary and played an important role in stabilising the patient," he said.
"Your officers are a credit to SCDF. They reflected the professionalism and sense of mission that they display daily as they go about their duties to protect and save lives and property for a safe and secure Singapore."
Mr Lee's post drew an outpouring of praise and support for the SCDF.
Said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who was at the Cabinet meeting: "We appreciated SSG Janice Lee's willingness to question Janil. It shows that we are a society that doesn't allow protocol or rank to get in the way of performance.
"Janil deserves full credit for saving Heng Swee Keat's life. I believe those precious early minutes made all the difference."
SCDF posted a photo of the four officers on Facebook, and said its emergency responders attend to some 500 calls a day and work tirelessly round the clock "to go about their duties in quiet but impactful ways to save lives and property".
Dr Janil shared Mr Lee's letter as well as SCDF's post on Facebook, where he added: "#SCDF rocks".