SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent a heartfelt 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 earlier this week.
He wrote that the officers were "highly professional and did an excellent job".
The SCDF officers Mr Lee named in the letter were staff sergeants Janice Lee Yi Ping and Mohd Imran bin Abd Samad, corporal Ian Lok Yu Hern, and trainee Sheena Chiang Yanpin.
Mr Lee's letter also 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. He became a Minister of State after last year's General Election.
Mr Lee said that when Mr Heng, 54, collapsed at 5.34pm, 995 was called immediately.
Within seven minutes, the SCDF team arrived at the Istana.
"When they entered the Cabinet room, Dr Janil Puthucheary was already resusciting 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."
He said that at one point, Ms Lee questioned Dr Janil as she saw that he was not following 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," Mr Lee said.
"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."
She was satisfied with Dr Janil's explanation and continued to support him in maintaining and securing the airway, including assisting him with inserting a laryngeal mask.
The SCDF team then took the lead and transferred Mr Heng to the ambulance which took him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, with Dr Janil supporting them in the ambulance.
Mr Lee wrote: "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.
"It is never easy to attend to a resuscitation, and the active involvement of a clinician already on the 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 professsionalism 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 shared his letter on his Facebook page, and the post has seen an outpouring of praise and support for the SCDF from netizens.
Said Mr Mohd Fairoz Ali on Facebook in response: "I'm glad that you praise them sir...we including myself government officers from the home team are giving our best in protecting our country and the citizen of Singapore even though at times we were abused by the public...we never ask to be commended because it is what we do."
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan shared PM Lee's thank you letter and credited Dr Janil for saving Mr Heng's life.
"I believe those precious early minutes made all the difference," said Dr Balakrishnan, a former eye surgeon, who was at the meeting.
He also praised Staff Sergeant Lee: "We appreciated SSG Janice Lee's willingness to question Dr Janil. It shows we are a society that doesn't allow protocol or rank to get in the way of performance."
Dr Janil, who is Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education, also shared Mr Lee's letter, and posted: "#SCDF crew did a fantastic job."