Zit Seng's Blog

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New Singapore Standard For Punishments

I was in two minds whether or not to write a sequel to my earlier Ownself Protecting Ownself post. But I think our Health Minister has decided for me that there’s more to be said. Policemen, lawyers, and judges, you’re going to be out of job soon. Or maybe, your job role will be significantly redefined.

First Aid Box

This is according to the logic presented by our Health Minister Mr Gan Kim Yong. It’s completely absurd. But that’s apparently the thinking he was putting across as he declined to name the people responsible for the Hepatitis C outbreak at SGH last year.

According to a Channel News Asia report, Mr Gan was responding to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera concerning the disclosure of names and punishments of those who had been found responsible for the outbreak that claimed eight lives.

Mr Gan spoke about the punishments in general, which included warnings, stern warning, and financial penalties. A stern warning has a negative bearing on the staff’s career, future promotion and awards. I noticed that “stern warning” was reported in the singular form, while “warnings” (i.e. that were not stern) were in plural form. I take it that while several warnings, that were not stern, were issued, only one person received a stern warning.

Am I getting this right? Of the 16 people found responsible for such severe lapses at SGH that ultimately resulted in the death of 8 people, only one person received a penalty that would impact his career, promotion, and awards?

But it’s what Mr Gan says next that is completely nonsensical. According to him, the greatest penalty isn’t with those disciplinary measures, but that they (i.e. the wrongdoers) have to carry with them the pain and regret of this incident for a long time.

I am flabbergasted. Their punishment was to feel pain and regret over the incident.

Excuse me, what sort of punishment is that?

This is even more ridiculous than Private Dominique’s case with the SAF, where the latter invoked its immunity protection. They had said that the death was unforeseen. That the death was unexpected makes the cause of it become, apparently, forgivable. Never mind that there were rules, and the rules were broken. The outcome was unexpected.

SGH takes that one notch up. They felt pain and regret, and that was considered punishment served.

Why do we need jails anymore? Why do we need still need courts? What we need are psychiatric facilities to establish the level of anguish and remorse that a wrongdoer has experienced. If there is insufficient anguish and remorse, then the wrongdoer needs to learn to feel more anguish and remorse.

After all, as Mr Gan says, we need a culture of learning. We don’t want to develop a blame culture.

Mr Gan says revealing the names and specific sanctions received by staff would not contribute to better care of patients. I want to ask. How does letting wrongdoers off so easily contribute to better care of patients?

The next time you get a speeding ticket or something, I wonder if you can offer the policeman a with a very remorseful “I feel immense pain and regret, it was unexpected, and I will learn from it” and get away with it.

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