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Abuse, harassment of nurses 'abhorrent and unacceptable': Halimah Yacob

SINGAPORE: The harassment and abuse of nurses and other healthcare workers is “abhorrent and unacceptable”, said President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (Jul 14).

Describing nurses as the "strong backbone" of Singapore's healthcare system, Madam Halimah said they play a critical role in the transition to living with COVID-19 as an endemic disease. 

The past one-and-a-half years have been even more challenging for the nursing profession due to the pandemic, she said. 

“As frontline responders, nurses bore the brunt of the crisis. I am proud that our nurses have all responded courageously to the call of duty."

Nurses worked under “tremendous pressure”, often under difficult conditions such as long hours in personal protective gear, she noted.

READ: Hurting the hands that heal: Cases of abuse, harassment of public healthcare workers on the rise

“I understand that some of you have also been subjected to harassment and abusive treatment from hospital visitors who were frustrated with the COVID measures, such as stricter visitation rules or having to undergo rostered routine testing,” said Mdm Halimah. 

“This is really abhorrent and unacceptable, as there is absolutely no reason for anyone to vent their frustrations on our healthcare workers who are merely doing their job to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Nurses, like other workers, are entitled to a safe working environment, she stated. 

“I call upon everyone to respect and support our nurses and other healthcare workers who, despite facing a greater risk of exposure to the virus, continue stoically with their work to serve others.”

Mdm Halimah was speaking during a virtual ceremony for the 2021 President’s Award for Nurses, the highest accolade in Singapore’s nursing profession. 

Many nurses went beyond their job scope, taking on new responsibilities and work in areas such as foreign worker dormitories as well as community isolation and community care facilities, she said. Some have also trained and supervised volunteers under the SG Healthcare Corps initiative.

READ: Veteran geriatric nurse, healthcare worker of 4 decades among recipients of top nursing award

“Your determination and resilience have played a significant part in helping our nation manage the pandemic,” she said. 

Mdm Halimah noted nurses have also been actively involved in Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. 

“As Singapore prepares to live with COVID-19 as an endemic disease, nurses will continue to play a critical role in this transition, and in keeping Singaporeans healthy and well.”

This year, seven nurses received the award, which recognises nurses who have shown sustained outstanding performance and contributions to patient care delivery, education, research and administration. 

They are:

- Dr Huang Fang, KK Women’s and Children Hospital assistant director of nursing 

- Ms Margaret Lee, Alexandra Hospital chief nurse

- Ms Katherine Leong, assistant director of nursing at Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute 

- Ms Christina Lim, Sengkang General Hospital chief nurse 

- Ms Lim Voon Hooi, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics chief nurse 

- Dr Shefaly Shorey, assistant professor at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

- Mr Christopher Soh, Tan Tock Seng Hospital assistant director of nursing

Each received a trophy, a certificate signed by the President as well as a S$10,000 cash prize. 

All registered nurses from healthcare institutions in the public, private, and community care sectors, as well as those from educational institutions, are eligible for the award.

Those nominated by institutions, members of the public or peers will be interviewed by a panel chaired by Dr Tan Wu Meng, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health. 

Wednesday’s virtual ceremony recognised the contributions of both 2021 and 2020 award recipients, as the physical reception for the award had been cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Source: CNA/az(cy)

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