Jul 05, 2013

    S'pore spirit shines through haze

    THE hazy skies have cleared this week, and Singaporeans have resumed their daily activities, be it dining out or taking a stroll in the park over the weekend.

    What struck me during this period was how resilient Singaporeans are. I saw for myself how family members looked out for one another, ensuring that the elderly and the young took the necessary precautions when the haze worsened.

    At the community level, I was heartened to see how the grassroots swung into action, with members volunteering their time and resources to look after the frail and the vulnerable.

    I was out on the ground with my grassroots leaders and residents, increasing awareness of haze and advising them on what they could do to care for themselves during this period.

    Like the other sectors, the Ministry of Health put in place plans to minimise any possible disruption caused by the haze. These included working with our healthcare institutions to ensure that patient care would not be compromised.

    We also rolled out the haze subsidy scheme, to ensure that vulnerable and needy Singaporeans would not need to pay more than $10 for a visit to the doctor for ailments which might have been brought on by the haze.

    I am glad that, to date, about 660 private clinics have joined the scheme. We hope that more GPs will come on board.

    Our social and residential facilities for the elderly also took the initiative to introduce measures to protect the health of the elderly persons in their care.

    I visited NTUC Eldercare this week, and saw for myself some of these measures in place, such as closely monitoring elders for any breathing difficulties or related symptoms, replacing daily exercises with table-top games to minimise physical exertion, and having additional nurses ready to be mobilised, should the haze be severe and sustained, to make home visits to seniors without home support.

    All across the island, such measures - initiated by individuals and community groups - worked to make the haze more bearable for the most vulnerable among us.

    Indeed, it was heartening to see Singaporeans coming together to look out for one another, from distributing masks to reminding each other to drink more water and stay indoors.

    So while the haze may have caused us inconvenience, it was also a time when we saw the Singapore spirit rise to the occasion.

    I am confident that we have what it takes to tackle any challenge, if we work together as a nation.

    For now, the hazy days appear to be behind us. But we must remain vigilant, and be prepared to once again deal with the haze, should it return.

    Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim is Parliamentary Secretary at the ministries of Health and Transport.