June 26, 2017


Photo By Shawn Danker
Morning Haze over the ECP.

by Salima Nadira

Having only left us for two months, the haze is back; and as citizens of the Southeast Asian region, we all have to find ways to deal with this recurring phenomenon which doesn’t look like it will cease anytime soon (despite Indonesia being in talks to end the haze problem since 2006). According to the NEA website, PSI readings of 50 and below are considered “good” air quality, 51-100 is “moderate” and 101-200 is “unhealthy”. Here are some tips that we might find useful to survive the next few days:

Now you see, now you don't (Image by Chuan Lee)
Now you see, now you don’t (Image by Chuan Lee)

PSI 66-89 (Singapore): The haze is still within the ‘moderate’ range. If you’re going out, don’t bother taking a shower, because the moment you step outside you’ll regret you left the house. Haze particles will settle in your hair and act as a natural hair volumizer, so you can style your hair while waiting for your bus. Don’t bother with the masks, because all the aunties are roughing it out still. You might want to think twice about buying food from outdoor vendors, though.

PSI 92 (Kuala Lumpur): Almost breaching the ‘unhealthy’ range, aunties and concerned citizens alike can find creative ways to cover their noses and mouths while looking glamorous at the same time. Suggestions are: use handkerchief (the lacier the better), or nonchalantly hold a neck scarf to your faces. No-nos: use a medical mask. Since the PSI warning is not high enough, that would just make you look kiasu.

PSI 101-129 (parts of Malacca): Well into ‘unhealthy’ territory, concerned citizens can go all-out now. Bring on the medical masks. Wrap those scarves around your heads like you live in a desert country. Bust out the gas mask you have lying in your storeroom from… that time you wore it to a costume party. Alternatively, just stay at home.

If you happen to be in Jakarta, haze is a lifestyle thing over there now. Residents have become so adept at driving, and even flying, through poor visibility that chances are life will go on as usual. With the low visibility, you might also want to continually check if your personal belongings go missing—it’s hard to see if anything happened through the fog. Don’t worry about looking unglamorous though – everyone will be wearing those medical masks along with you.

by Kwan Jin Yao


That is the number of people who were down with dengue last week, higher than the previous peak of 713 in 2005. In its weekly update, ST carried an informative diagram, which compared the 2013 developments to the trends in 2005 and 2007. Since the end of February this year, it would appear that the number of cases has not dropped, and rate of increase has outpaced the rates of the 2005 and 2007 dengue epidemics.

From the start of April, the number of dengue infections has increased from 547 to 756. During the same period, Singapore also reported its first dengue death of the year.

The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health Dr Lam Pin Min stated that “the trend is not abating in spite of all the current campaigns and community efforts”. While the dengue hot spots are clustered in the east, more cases have begun to spring up in the north and west, ST reports. Dr Lam talks up a great plan of people playing their parts and Singapore winning the war. But, how exactly?

For the ordinary Singaporean, the messages are no different from the ones they have been used to: door-to-door pamphlets and community road-shows to educate the public about the pesky Aedes mosquito, friendly advertisements to check and clear potential breeding sites… Perhaps the latest statistics will jolt more into action, yet one has to wonder whether the G should step up more aggressively to stop the figures from spiralling up? More shock videos and stories to highlight the real dangers and perils of the dengue fever, to address the laissez-faire and complacent attitudes towards it? Slap errant residents with heavier penalties? Giving its operations officers more discretion and power to eliminate suspected breeding sites? Personnel from the National Environment Agency can now break into homes after just a week, but even so new mosquitoes could have bred by then.

One other way: to use its website to galvanise communities into action, to report errant behaviour in different places. Here’s the bottom-line: the status quo will not do.

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Photo By Shawn Danker
A Raffles Medical Clinic at Changi Airport Terminal 2.

by Yen Feng

Plans for the old bus interchange in Serangoon Central will now include a new Family Medicine Centre – believed to be the fifth such facility to be built to meet changing healthcare demands in an ageing society.

In a Zaobao exclusive, Marine Parade MP Seah Kian Peng told the Chinese paper that this was not revealed last year along with plans to refurbish the old interchange as the decision had not been finalised.

Last July, Mr Seah had announced that the Serangoon site which falls under Mr Seah’s ward would be transformed into an Integrated Day Facility, with childcare and eldercare facilities for residents in the Braddell Heights area.

The Family Medicine Centre in Serangoon joins four others that scheduled to open this year, reported ZB.

Such centres help patients with chronic illnesses, including those recently discharged to continue receiving care near their homes.

This is good news for Braddell Heights residents – of whom some two-thirds live in HDB flats and about 39 per cent are over 50 years old, ZB said.

The paper did not give detailed numbers but said the area’s proportion of elderly residents are higher than most residential areas.

by Bertha Henson

If anyone still thinks that dengue fever is just a fever that happens to someone else, Singapore’s first dengue death of the year should make people scramble to change the water in their vases.

Dengue numbers this year are expected to break the record. Already, more than 8000 people have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus this year. Last week, 641 people were infected. Since Sunday, another 458 have fallen, according to ST today.

Yet through the months, there have been complaints of people being unwilling to open their doors for inspection and calls for heavier penalties to compel them to do so. It appears that getting rid of the Aedes mosquito isn’t as simple. People just aren’t shocked enough to take action. Ironically, it could be because our doctors have been particularly good at treating patients and stopping people from dying of mosquito bites. Since it doesn’t look like a fatal disease, but a “fever’’ which is “curable’’, it doesn’t have the same impact as, say, a SARS virus. Plus, it’s not contagious.

Perhaps, the death of 20-year-old Ang Yong Han will compel people to look at the mosquito as more than just a pesky nuisance. It’s worth reminding people that in 2007, a total of 20 people died from the bite. What’s of greater shock value is how bad a dengue fever can get. Dengue haemorrhagic fever causes internal bleeding. Dengue shock syndrome causes the internal organs to shut down.

Read The New Paper for details on how Mr Ang died, and how his parents had to watch him suffer. On the first day of his admission into hospital (for the second time), he was so feverish he felt like he was bursting into flames, he was vomiting and his body ached. By the second day, he couldn’t talk, couldn’t open his eyes and his body had bloated. This was despite aggressive blood transfusion treatments, organ systems support and close monitoring, according to a doctor reported in TODAY. In his last moments on the third day, he couldn’t recognise his family members. He died.

The next question people will have is, where did he live? Answer: Block 103, Hougang Avenue 1. Two other people living within 150m of his home have also come down with dengue, ST reported.

With this death, calls of more stringent checks and heavier penalties will get louder. Questions will be asked about National Environment Agency’s public messaging. Those posters and banners are everywhere, but are people really reading them?

Here’s a suggestion: try showing video clips at places people congregate, like in churches. These institutions draw in people from the neighbourhood who will be a captive audience in any kind of public announcement exercise. Do NOT attempt to introduce a mascot like Water Wally or Teamy the Bee or Singa the courtesy lion. They either don’t work – or they retire before work is done.

Last but not least, Breakfast Network extends its condolences to the family of Mr Ang.

Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
A car drives through some ponding at Katong.

by Sarah Lim

Here’s a reason not to drive on Singapore roads. It drives you crazy – and will maim you too.

Two days after a Sunday Times report on the frequency of road rage incidents in Singapore is an article on how the number of trauma patients with severe injuries is increasing. Today’s edition of ST also showed that even passengers can lose their temper. A former lecturer has just been given a jail sentence for striking a taxi driver with an umbrella; he hit so hard the umbrella broke. The article told of another case of a passenger whacking a taxi driver but the cabby did not want to pursue the matter. 

A bruised eye or a pained back aren’t the only problems you face on the roads. TTSH had 129 severely injured patients in 2008 due to road accidents. It went up to 178 last year. At KTP, it went up from 64 in 2011 to more than 100 road traffic accident patients. It’s the result of a bigger population and a tendency to speed or drive drunk. The increasing number of heavy construction vehicles combined with an increasing number of car ownership simply is, as TTSH trauma surgeon put it, “a recipe for a major accident to happen”.

Strangely, not all the hospitals in Singapore reported this rising trend. Only TTSH and the newer KTPH did. Could it be that more accidents occur at roads in the vicinity of these two hospitals? Does this signal that these roads are more accident prone? Or are these hospitals simply better equipped to cope with such trauma patients? 

It might just be as well that car prices are rising…unless there are also rising instances of rail rage or bus fuss that we don’t know about.

by Bertha Henson

No one wants to think about getting old or rather, becoming demented. When your faculties aren’t what they used to be, when you start drooling and even lose control of bodily functions. When your relatives pin a card with a phone number on you, in case you go missing. When little by little, you become a weight on young ones, even if they are more than filial in their responsibilities to you. (Perhaps that’s why people don’t want old folks’ facilities in their backyard. It’s a reminder of what they might become.)

That’s why a 10-year study on dementia and elderly depression is to be welcomed. According to an ST report (“New 10-year study on elderly” ST 24/05/2013), about 28,000 people here have dementia, a brain disorder which affects the memory, intellect and personality. The number will go up to 80,000 by 2030. There are however two times the number of elderly suffering from depression than dementia here. Just how was the projection made anyway? Based on a population of 6.9million?

What’s worse is Singapore’s number of elderly suicides. In 2007, the suicide rate for those aged 65 and above was 27.6 for every 100,000. In the United States, it’s about 14. What’s the link between depression and dementia? Are they perfectly okay senior citizens who become so depressed that they take their own life? Or are they mainly those who are suffering from dementia?

Now that was in 2007, about six years ago. Perhaps the study will also reveal if we have got the number going down – or is it going up? What is clear is that we are no longer a young country. And those who are young had better start making provisions for themselves, and look a little less askance at other people – VWOs and state agencies – who try to give a good life to those who are now old.

by Bertha Henson

What a nice headline in ST! A Diva to manage mum’s blood pressure. Except the rest of the story is confusion.

Here’s what the report said:

An automatic system to manage blood pressure in mothers going through caesarean births has been developed by doctors at a Singapore hospital, in what they say is a world first.

The Double Intravenous Vasopressor Automated System – or Diva – is still in development stage, but doctors at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) hope it will lead to safer caesarean sections.

Eh? So has this world’s first already been developed or not?

Then follows a long spiel about how this already developed/ still developing Diva works. Then later comes this 2011 study of 55 women which showed that Diva was more efficient than conventional methods of maintaining blood pressure during the operation.

So it has been developed then?

Then comes this: The hospital can’t give a time-frame as to when the Diva will be in action.

Looks like it’s a premature birth.