Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat has condemned remarks made by Professor Paul Tambyah at a recent public conference in Singapore.

Professor Tambyah, a senior infectious disease consultant at the National University Hospital (NUH), was said to have made allegations at a recent event on 1 May about what junior doctors are told when they complain about work.

Professor raised topic of junior doctors’ dissatisfaction

He is alleged to have stated that the junior doctors “say that every time they complain about conditions in the public hospital, they are told, ‘Oh you know, complain lah, you know we can hire somebody from South or South-east Asia who is willing to work for $3,000 a month’”. He added, “Even in my own field, the junior doctors tell me this and I don't know how true it is.”

Speaking at the forum organised by, an employment support site, he made the remarks while talking about how junior doctors are affected by the current absence of minimum wage. He stated that a minimum wage would bring about a level playing field.

Local sociopolitical website The Independent wrote an article on Professor Tambyah’s speech and raised the issue of temporary registration, which he did not mention. The website critiqued the Singapore Medical Council for giving temporary registrations to doctors from medical schools which are not recognised in Singapore.

Minister: Temporary registrations are granted for training and visiting specialists

“While these doctors may supplement the hospital's workforce during their temporary stint in Singapore, they are not here to replace or compete with our local doctors,” Chee stated on that subject.

Less than 4% of the population of doctors in Singaporean public hospitals are foreign doctors under temporary registration, he added. Chee also said these temporary registrations are granted for training and visiting specialists, as is done in countries like Britain, United States and Australia.

Chee also criticised Professor Tambyah via social media after the latter took to Facebook to say that the website had misrepresented him when writing about his speech. Chee, however, stated that he found the report to be accurate, as he had listened to a recording of Professor Tambyah’s speech himself.

The website wrote, “Junior doctors had told him that every time they complain about conditions in public hospitals, the administrators don't seem perturbed by it.” Professor Tambyah maintains that he was misrepresented as he was referring to a hospital, not the entire public healthcare system and not NUH.

Doctor urged to provide further information for investigation

In relation to this matter, Chee said, “It begs the question why Prof Tambyah repeated serious allegations regarding his healthcare sector colleagues when he did not know if these were true. The junior doctors were speaking to Prof Tambyah in his capacity as a senior doctor. Instead of clarifying the facts with the junior doctors or surfacing his concerns to the management, he chose to repeat unsubstantiated allegations at a public conference.”

“I find it disturbing that as a senior doctor, Prof Tambyah does not see anything wrong with this behavior. If Prof Tambyah has specific details such as the names of the administrators and what exactly they said to the junior doctors, I welcome him to provide the information to Ministry of Health, Singapore. We will certainly look into the matter,” he added.

Professor Tambyah, when contacted by The Straits Times, said that his remarks "are not untrue" and can be validated in many doctor chat groups. He claims to have brought the matter up with the administrator "dozens of times", but to no avail. MIMS

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