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The politics of healthcare - a doctor's analogy in parliament

"It is clear that the more politicians play with healthcare, the worse the health of the nation," said Member of Parliament Dr Puthucheary.

SINGAPORE: An analogy on the politics of healthcare earned Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Dr Janil Puthucheary, applause in Parliament on Tuesday (May 27). 

Dr Putucheary explained how healthcare is used by politicians to gain electoral advantage. He said looking at examples outside Singapore, it is clear that the more politicians play with healthcare, the worse the health of the nation. This is because short-term popular political interests overthrow long-term outcomes, he said.

In a rare move, Dr Putucheary was granted extra time after going past the time allotted to each speaker. A Member of Parliament who is not a Minister, is not usually allowed this.

Said Dr Puthucheary: “What would the increasing politicisation of healthcare look like? It would start with soundbite politics, like making comments about active ageing as a joke about corridor beds, when these are not reflective of health outcomes. It may progress to attacking spending on healthcare, instead of addressing the success we have had with healthcare outcomes.”

"To agree with someone else's policies is not compliant politics. If the policy is good, and achieves its outcomes of a better life for citizens, then attacking it does not generate better politics. If the government has a good policy then the civil service supporting it is not being compliant, they are serving the best interests of our nation,” he said.

Dr Puthucheary said it is not enough to say for people to say they are supportive of good policies and good governance, in general.

"What you say and how you say it are both important, as are what you choose to say nothing about. When you fail to acknowledge the good, when you avoid discussion of consequences and trade-offs, when you spend a whole speech attacking one point you disagree with and fail to support all the other points you should agree with, when you incite division in the name of diversity, when you silently support xenophobia in the name of nationalism, these are not the markers of good politics, no matter how much debate and diversity of opinion they reflect."

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