Dr Paul Ananth Tambyah, a medical professional and activist, has issued a statement to criticise a local news website for misrepresenting his remarks made at a May Day commemoration event organized by Transitioning.Org on 1 May 2017.
He commented that an anonymous writer from “The Independent Singapore” (TISG) had put a spin on the segment of the event with an edited video clip on their website with a click-bait headline.
The article which Dr Tambyah referred to, was published a day later after the event on 2 May and entitled, "Hospital administrators allegedly warn junior doctors that they are replaceable with 3rd world country doctors who are willing to work for $3K per month".
Dr Tambyah noted that people in institutions who are connected to him, have expressed their concerns over what has been written in the "irresponsible" article and he, himself is appalled at the misrepresentation by TISG.
He wrote, "Anyone who was at the event will know that I was not referring to NUH hospital administrators at all or the entire healthcare system, but calling out bad behavior by those who try to divide us".
Highlighting that academics and professionals have a duty to support the “system” when it is doing the right thing and to raise their concerns when it is not, and to do so not just behind closed doors but in the public square.
The article on TISG wrote,
"Transitioning, a support site for unemployed PMETs, organised a conference on Labour Day where one of the speakers pointed out how the lack of minimum wage in Singapore is even affecting professionals like doctors. Dr Paul Tambyah, a senior consultant at the National University Hospital, speaking in his personal capacity said junior doctors had told him that every time they complain about conditions in public hospitals, the administrators don’t seem perturbed by it.
The public hospital administrators warned the junior doctors who complained that they can be replaced with someone from south or south-east Asia who is willing to work for $3,000 a month.
Dr Tambyah said that if doctors are feeling such pressures, he can imagine what workers in other sectors may be feeling."
While the article and video included the disclaimer that Dr Tambyah is speaking in personal capacity but both the article and video highlighted his association with the National University Hospital (NUH) where he works at.
In the same article, the unnamed writer further documents cases of foreign doctors from unaccredited medical schools and with unapproved degrees.
And from TISG's write-up, one would assume Dr Tambyah was referring to NUH in his remarks about the threats of replacing the doctors with cheaper labour and that he was referring to the issue of foreign doctors replacing local doctors in his speech.
Dr Tambyah, however, said in the opening speech for the May Day event,
"Singapore is the only country without a minimum wage and yet when you think about it, a minimum wage which will help Singaporeans far more than people coming from overseas because I can tell you this. Even in my own field, the junior doctors tell me this and I don't know how true it is. Every time, they complain about conditions in a public hospital, they are told, "Oh complain lar, we can hire somebody from south or south-east asia who is willing to work for three thousand dollars a month". And you know if even doctors are feeling this kind of thing, you can imagine what other professions are facing.
Therefore, Dr Tambyah's message in context is that without a minimum wage in Singapore and foreign workers are allowed to be paid less than their local counterparts even though they may do the same amount of work, Singaporean workers can be threatened by their employers to have them replaced with cheaper workers from overseas.