Demanding boss who cares for his workers

Dr Kwa (right) taking a break with his colleagues in an undated picture. PHOTO: HANDOUT

SINGAPORE - Dr Kwa Soon Bee, 65, who retires from the Health Ministry today, is a demanding and meticulous boss, but cares deeply for all his staff, said his colleagues.

Senior officials in the health sector took time recently to pen their memories of working with him for a special edition of the Health Ministry's newsletter, Health scope.

Dr Chen Ai Ju, who takes over as director of medical services, remembers him as a tireless worker.

He is at work before 7.30am and leaves after 6pm, with one or two bags of files, she said.

She added: "He always carries a notebook in his shirt pocket in which he will jot down points to follow up.

"I was told that he even carries the notebook to sleep and wakes up to write things down in the night."

Dr Kwa had instructions and guidelines on almost every aspect of administration, said Mr S. Wickramariyaratne, Alexandra Hospital's secretary.

He said he compiled Dr Kwa's guidelines into bound volumes and still uses them.

But at heart, said several of the writers, Dr Kwa is a doctor who shows concern and empathy for his subordinates.

In 1984, while Dr Kwa was the medical director of the Singapore General Hospital, he had planned to retire.

He had twice gone to see the then Health Minister, Mr Howe Yoon Chong, he said.

Dr Kwa wrote in one of the articles:

"On each occasion, I was given a lecture by Mr Howe and was told to forget any idea of an early retirement. I was told to go on leave.

"Upon my return, I found a letter on my desk asking me to report to the ministry headquarters as Permanent Secretary (Health) and director of medical services."

As Permanent Secretary, he personally supervised the building of many medical institutions such as the National Blood Centre and Woodbridge Hospital.

He also started the restructuring of the government hospitals and launched the National Healthy Lifestyle Programme.

He said that he was now glad to have the chance to sit back and relax, but added that he would miss working at the Health Ministry.

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