Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Public engagement must translate into action- Raymond's letter to the press on the CPF, NSmen rewards & the civil service

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter was published on Wednesday 28th May 2014.

I applaud Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s reminder to public servants to engage Singaporeans and understand their concerns and needs (“Call for nimble public service with its ear to the ground”; last Saturday).

The civil service must train its staff to not only show more empathy to the public, but also work with different departments and ministries when issues are complex and involve more than one government body.

In short, civil servants must practise the “no wrong door” policy, so that people are not shunted from one department to another.

They must also respond to letters or feedback within five working days, in keeping with the PS21 vision.

Currently, there is much unhappiness over the Central Provident Fund Minimum Sum, which keeps going up year after year and is not matched by wage increases.

Many Singaporeans are so stressed from work that they want to retire at 55 and withdraw their CPF savings.

I am sure some among them are caregivers looking after their loved ones who are grappling with health issues. Perhaps caregivers should be given the option of withdrawing their CPF savings at age 50.

Separately, it is disheartening that the Committee to Strengthen National Service has ignored the contributions of older national servicemen aged between 55 and 64. Has this group not also safeguarded the nation and made lots of sacrifices, like the younger and pioneer generations?

Policies should not favour one group over another, because it will lead to a divided society.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, May 26, 2014

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s 2 letters to the press on the mentally ill & their carers

(1) Letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper: Hope for more support for carers, people with mental illness
With the reopening of the 12th Parliament, I welcome the news in the report “Leadership change for 4 of 11 Govt Parliamentary Committees” (May 16).
I hope Singaporeans can be offered fresh, bold ideas that will pave the way for a more inclusive society, catering to the needs of all Singaporeans, especially those who need better support, such as people with mental illness and their carers.
Often, due to guilt and self-imposed obligations to care for loved ones grappling with mental health issues, which are difficult to manage, carers sacrifice their own needs, running the risk of physical and emotional burnout.
Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang Group Representation Constituency Denise Phua, who will double up as Mayor of the Central District and Government Parliamentary Committee Chairman (Social and Family Development) at the end of the month, has championed people with autism for years and has succeeded in getting them support. With her new appointments, I hope she will also champion the mentally ill and their families.
Healthcare is a concern for all Singaporeans, and with the appointment of two-term backbencher Lam Pin Min as Minister of State (Health), I hope this long-suffering group will soon get the needed assistance from the Government.

(2) Letter to The Straits Times: Donate to the mentally ill too

THE Singapore Children's Society is appealing for philanthropists to step forward and donate $1,000 a year to its charity ("Want to be a philanthropist? Give $1,000 a year"; last Wednesday).

While this charity is doing a good job to support needy children, there should also be initiatives to support another group on the fringes of society - the mentally ill and their families.

Many psychiatric patients and their caregivers are in dire need of financial support and it is not uncommon for caregivers to give up their jobs to care full time for their charges.

If we want to build a society where no one is left behind, there needs to be better support for the psychiatric community here.

To this end, I suggest that a similar initiative be started to raise funds for psychiatric patients and their families. A dedicated community that supports the mentally ill can ensure that the work of reforming mental health care extends far into the future.

But it will not be easy to get philanthropists to donate to this group because the mentally ill are often viewed as people who cannot contribute to society.

This is far from true. Moreover, some individuals may avoid donations to the field of mental illness for fear of identifying themselves and being personally affected by the social stigma associated with mental illness.

Our politicians are some of the highest-paid people in the world, so they can lead by example by contributing to this worthy cause. Once they do so, I have every confidence that other philanthropists will follow suit.

 Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why death should not be viewed as a taboo subject - Raymond A Fernando's press letter-to TODAY Newspaper

I support the Die Die Must Say campaign, which was launched to encourage people to talk about death (“Getai shows set to get seniors talking about end-of-life issues”; May 7).

Like mental illness, death is a subject people often feel uncomfortable discussing, although we will all come face to face with it some day. We could pay an emotional and financial price by being silent about death or dying.
I wish to share an experience of death and why being prepared is important. How could I predict that I would lose my wife after her immune system weakened badly?

We had fought the battle against schizophrenia, a condition she was diagnosed with, for 40 years, only to lose her to pneumonia within a week of hospitalisation. I still cannot believe or come to terms with this.

Having cared for her through all her six chronic illnesses for four decades, I had hoped that she would die in familiar surroundings: Our home. But the sudden attack of pneumonia, which requires professional care, did not make this possible.

The community, which includes journalists, the church, friends and even strangers, is walking alongside me during this most painful part of my life. Many came to the wake, showing love and unflagging support.

Love is wonderful, but it can also be painful when you lose the one you love dearly.

During the week she was in hospital, my wife went through much discomfort: Numerous blood tests, X-rays, oxygen and antibiotic insertions, tubes put in her nose and mouth as well as heart tests. Her chances of survival were slim. The doctors and nurses did their best to comfort and save her. When things took a turn for the worse, the medical team asked if I wanted her in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where they might have to bore a hole in her throat.

We had discussed this before: She had told me not to waste money on intensive care, but to let her go in peace when the time came. I did not want her to go through more discomfort, honoured what she told me and left her fate in God’s hands.

In a way, I was prepared, even though my wife, who was my whole world, left me so suddenly.
Having gone through this, I advise everyone to value his or her loved ones and to be unafraid to discuss the delicate subject of death with family members. You never know when you will lose them.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to The New Paper (TNP): Talking about death with loved ones prepare you for it

My letter on the above subject is published in The New Paper (TNP) today, Monday 12th May 2014.

The Lien Foundation and Ang Chin Moh Foundation have launched a bold initiative called Die Die Must Say that will encourage the public to talk about death.

Just like mental illness, death is another subject that people often do not feel comfortable talking about, though we will all have to face it someday.  

I would like to share a personal experience of death and why it is so important to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Together with my wife, I had battled her schizophrenia for 40 years, only to lose her to pneumonia within a week of her being admitted to hospital. 

During the one week that she was in hospital, my wife went through so much discomfort– numerous blood tests and X-rays. 

When things took a turn for the worse, the medical team asked me if I wanted to put her in the intensive care unit where they might have to bore a hole in her throat.  My wife had discussed this issue with me earlier and told me not to waste money and let her go in peace when the time came.

I honoured what she told me. 

So, in a way, I was prepared for her death, even though she left me so suddenly.

I would advise everyone not only to treasure your loved ones but also to not be afraid to discuss the delicate subject of death with them – because you never know when you will lose them.



Saturday, May 10, 2014

Raymond A Fernando's letter to The Straits Time – Life Section: Png an emphatic gentleman

My letter to the Straits Times on the above matter is published the Life Section today – Saturday 10th May 2014.

I was delighted when Pierre Png (below) won the Best Actor award (Destined To Be An Actor, May 5).

Png is not only the perfect gentleman, but he also displays empathy and appreciates the little things people do. 

I was pleasantly surprised when Png and his wife, Andrea De Cruz, took time off their busy schedule to offer their condolences to me at my church when they read of my wife’s untimely passing. 

I guess they remembered me from way back in 2003 when I wrote them a poem to encourage them after Png decided to donate part of his liver to De Cruz.

 After the poem was published in the newspaper, I received a call from Png one night expressing his appreciation for the support.  


Raymond Anthony Fernando