President Halimah urges Singaporeans to support healthcare workers

President Halimah Yacob at the Christalite Methodist Home as part of community engagement on Feb 13, 2020.
President Halimah Yacob at the Christalite Methodist Home as part of community engagement on Feb 13, 2020.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

President Halimah Yacob has urged Singaporeans to stand behind the country's healthcare workers in the light of reports that some have been poorly treated.

Madam Halimah noted in a Facebook post yesterday that "it is up to us as individuals in our daily interactions with them to show our appreciation, support and empathy".

Her remarks came as Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Wednesday that showing nurses and doctors appreciation could "give them a morale boost to continue the fight".

The issue of how Singaporeans treat healthcare staff has gained attention in recent days, with several widely shared posts about people avoiding them on MRT trains circulating on social media.

Madam Halimah wrote: "It is really painful to read and hear about how our front-line healthcare workers are treated... Remember that they too are human beings and worry about their own health and that of their families as they plod on daily to take care of other people's family members.

"They had to cast aside their own fears and valiantly serve the ill out of a sense of duty and compassion."

Some healthcare workers have said that people in public spaces are giving them a wide berth when they are in uniform and that some private-hire drivers have been reluctant to pick them up. Some even said they are considering changing out of their uniforms after their shifts to put others more at ease.

Madam Halimah added in her Facebook post: "Why then do some of us make their lives so difficult at a time when we need them the most? As I've said before, how we respond to this crisis defines us as a people... Let's do it the Singaporean way."

Earlier in the day, the President visited Christalite Methodist Home in Marsiling Drive, and interacted with the welfare home's elderly residents during their therapy sessions. She also distributed hygiene products including disinfectant liquid and hand sanitiser.

In a separate Facebook post after her visit, Madam Halimah wrote: "A collective community effort is important especially in helping the vulnerable groups in our society who may not have access to resources."

She had said on Wednesday that the President's Challenge, an annual event that mobilises resources to help the less fortunate, will be donating $250,000 to the Courage Fund to further support vulnerable groups during this period.

Meanwhile, people and groups across the island have been rallying behind nurses and other healthcare staff. Some have penned them handwritten notes, while many Grab drivers said they are keen to join a new service called GrabCare to help medical workers get to and from healthcare facilities.

Donations have also started pouring in to funds that go to coronavirus patients, healthcare workers and their families.

The Government said on Wednesday that one million masks will be distributed to general practitioners and specialists in private practice, their staff, as well as their patients.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'President Halimah urges S'poreans to support healthcare workers'. Subscribe