SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Commissioner Eric Yap to thank his team for their speedy response to the situation after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat collapsed during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday (May 12).
In a letter released by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Saturday, Mr Lee said the team were "highly professional" and in control throughout the incident. Sharing the letter on Facebook, the Prime Minister said he saw how they dealt with the emergency firsthand and was "deeply impressed" by the "confident and competent" team.
Mr Lee said that when Mr Heng collapsed at 5.34pm on Thursday, the SCDF team responded within seven minutes from the time 995 was dialled. The nearest SCDF station to the Istana is the Central Fire Station at Hill Street.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, who is a medical doctor, was already resuscitating Mr Heng when they entered the Cabinet Room at the Istana. He had been using the bag and mask resuscitation kit that the security team had on hand, Mr Lee related. The SCDF team jumped in to support Dr Janil, recording what happened and monitoring his vitals.
However one SCDF paramedic, SSG Janice Lee Yi Ping, "observed that Dr Janil was deviating from paramedic SOP and appropriately asked him if he was bagging the patient too fast," PM Lee wrote.
"Dr Janil shared his presumptive diagnosis and explained that he was hyper-ventilating the patient to relieve pressure on the brain and reduce the swelling," Mr Lee said, adding that SSG Lee was satisfied with the explanation and continued to support Dr Janil in maintaining and securing the airway of Mr Heng.
The SCDF team then took the lead and conveyed Mr Heng in an ambulance to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), with Dr Janil supporting them.
"My colleagues and I observed how your team kept cool and were in control throughout the incident, working as a team with Dr Janil. Each knew their roles and all had the presence of mind to stay completely focused on the patient.
"Your team was highly competent and professional, unfazed by the surroundings or the presence of ministers. They asserted themselves where necessary and played an important role in stabilising the patient," PM Lee stated.
The SCDF team included EMT SSG Mohd Imran Abd Samad, NSF EMT CPL Ian Lok Yu Hern and Paramedic Trainee Sheena Chiang Yanpin as well.
"Your officers are a credit to the SCDF. They reflected the professionalism and sense of mission that they display daily as they go about their duties to protect and save lives and property for a safe and secure Singapore," Mr Lee concluded.
Sharing Mr Lee's Facebook post, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Dr Janil "deserves full credit for saving Heng Swee Keat's life. I believe those early minutes made all the difference".
"We appreciated SSG Janice Lee's willingness to question Janil. It shows that we are a society that doesn't allow protocol or rank to get in the way of performance," he wrote.
Dr Balakrishnan added that what happened in the Cabinet Room was "Team Singapore at its best".
"The next time you meet a SCDF officer or your son enlists for National Service with SCDF - remember to salute them. They save lives everyday."
In a Facebook post on Saturday, SCDF said SSG Janice Lee, SSG Mohd Imran, PMT Sheena Chiang and CPL (NSF) Ian Lok "are part of the SCDF emergency responders, comprising career officers, full time National Servicemen (NSF), Operationally Ready National Servicemen (ORNS) and volunteers from the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU)".
SCDF added that they "attend to approximately 500 calls daily and (work) tirelessly round the clock to go about their duties in quiet but impactful ways to save lives and property".
Mr Heng is currently in stable condition at TTSH, but will be in the intensive care unit "for some time", Mr Lee said in an update on Friday. He added that Mr Heng is "in very good hands".
Finance Minister Heng had collapsed at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. He had suffered a stroke due to an aneurysm and underwent surgery that evening to alleviate pressure in the brain due to bleeding.
On Saturday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary visited Mr Heng at the hospital and said he is "relieved" to know he is in stable condition and well cared for by his family members and TTSH staff.