Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Suay Kuan [The Unlucky Ones]

Just to share a real-life story from Anonymous who commented on Thursday, November 07, 2013 8:14:00 AM on my blog post "It's not so simple". If you want to believe how Singapore's healthcare system is "world class", then perhaps people like Anonymous and I are the just "the suay kuan" [i.e. "the unlucky ones"]. Otherwise, you'd question whether the occasional reports that leak about the aggression and violence faced by healthcare workers (nurses in particular) in Singapore are really the tip of the iceberg of an endemic issue.

Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing your personal story.


[The following is copied from a comment left by Anonymous on Thursday, November 07, 2013 8:14:00 AM on my blog post "It's not so simple". Changes in font size, bold, italics and underline are added by me for emphasis.]

As a student nurse in Singapore, I bore witness to the most horrifying situation that happened in the hospital. There was a patient which was coding, and there were only 2 student nurses (one of which is myself). The emergency button was pressed. Guess what...a registered nurse (foreign trained) appeared but she took a look and walked off saying she needed to fetch her patient from OT. Needless to say , patient died because there were only 2 of us to do cpr and suction the bloody emesis while yelling for help after she left. Worse timing was it happened during break and the other nurse was in the private room doing a tracheostomy dressing. After she heard us, that nurse ran out of the private room and immediately took action. I reported that foreign nurse.

HO HO HO. I got blacklisted for pushing the matter. The senior nursing officer was telling me to keep quiet if I wanted my career. I stuck to my principles. Worse of all , I was bonded. So you can imagine what happened to me.....

When they made my life a total misery and told me that I was the most useless nurse etc , that I will never make it anywhere else ...etc ....making my rosters 12 days in a row and one day off at each end [checked, I have experienced that]. Even better, making me work when I was having a fever [checked, I have experienced that too], and landing me in ED with a 40 degree fever and a fit. THEN telling me that if I take more than 3 days leave, I can forget about my performance review. That went on for more than 3 months. 

It broke me down. For doing the right thing, I got marked. All the time, I kept it from my family until my father found me at the edge of our study window deciding whether I should jump or not. He decided to buy out the bond. 

Even better when I sent the resignation letter in, matron called me down and asked me if I can 'even afford' to pay off and I would be 'stuck' with the debt as well as saying 'you know....your family is not that rich and you might need to wash the dishes ' when she did not even know my family background. I looked at her and said "cash ,cheque or credit card? Which payment option to take". She retorted at me "how dare you talk to me like that girl [again I have a similar experience]... your family is poor and you want to drive them into debt" [again similar to my experience].

The day after my father came, suddenly I was called down.....the matron met my father. HAHAHAHA She asked me if I told him anything about the hospital and the complaints I was making. I looked at her and informed her that whatever I said to my father is covered under lawyer client privilege and I know my rights. She was frightened. My father's old classmate was the CEO of that particular hospital and he told me while the matron was coming out, the CEO was just walking out to lunch and greeted him. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Suddenly the matron decided that I was the poor nurse getting bullied by senior nurses and she will discipline them ...and that every ward would be happy to take me in if I decide to withdraw the cheque and my resignation. My final words to her : Go to Hell. 

I was naive and never used my dad as a connection. Had I revealed who my father was sooner, perhaps they would have licked my ass and gone after the incompetent nurse.


To my readers: The stuff that I wrote on my blog about nursing in Singapore has already been "censored" by me to avoid stuff that may cause lawsuits to my previous employer, etc. So I am not surprised at all by the stuff that Anonymous shared. Nursing in Singapore has a long way to go before it is truly a respectable profession.


  1. Wow wow wow. What an insight. Applaud to that courageous nurse who has the balls to stick to her ground. Was the incident related to the CEO? Did that incompetent foreign RN get punished? It must be harrowing to be working in such environment....I wonder if this is due to it being female dominated or due to strong hierarchical structure? I mean SIA cabin crew seems to have similar problem of 'bullying'.....

    1. Hi Anonymous on Monday, November 11, 2013 2:17:00 AM:

      Thanks for your comment.

      I do not know any details with regards to the case other than those posted by the original anonymous nurse.

      Nursing in both Canada and Singapore are female-dominated, but nursing in Canada have strong unions, equity in pay (regardless foreign or local), and more autonomy. Based on my observation, bullying while still present, is to a lesser degree here in Canada compare to Singapore. In fact when bullying events happen, witnesses would support the victim by highlighting the bullying behaviour. This weakens the bully's power/clout and thus reduces the chance of repeat.

      In addition, workplace laws here recognize workplace harassment including emotional aggression. The perpetrator can be in serious trouble if it happens. The same labour protection either does not exist or is merely lip-service in Singapore.

      Cheers, WD.

  2. Blacklisted, blacklisted, blacklisted...

    People with courage to speak out are blacklisted. Hence i can understand Gintai's predicament as a blogger as i'm one myself. Both our identities are in the open. I'm blacklisted in my previous job as well. My superiors found me tough to manage. Instead of seeing us as valuable form of feedback/contribution, the higher management see only threats/dangers. Even Massivesoft is wise enough to reward hackers who found security flaws in windows else the price & problem down the road is even bigger.

    On the bond/slavery thing, it is something i don't understand about fellow sinkies. I hate being chained to do things i loathe in a job hence i don't like spending $$$ (frugality). It makes no sense to me to buy more & more stuff with $$ earned from a miserable job yet many sinkies flock to malls to indulge in their consumption mania.

    1. On the bond/slavery, some of us do not have a choice. E.g. I was told when I was considering to apply for the nursing career conversion course that I have to be sponsored by a hospital and bonded to them in order to be accepted by NYP for the career conversion Diploma in Nursing course. I asked again to clarify that it was a pre-requisite and got an affirmative answer.

      When I started the course, I realized that I have one classmate who was not bonded, I do not know how/why she can join the course without bond, unlike the rest of us. Then I found out that she is from a very wealthy family -- well, good for her.

      But that's the reality in Singapore, "money talks". No make that, "money shouts" 有钱能使鬼推磨 ["money can make ghosts push the grindstone"], even for simple things like getting an academic opportunity and/or professional training.

  3. Sigh! That's a sad truth in life. It's better to move with the flow than against the flow at the risk of blacklisted.

    1. Hi Gintai,

      I am sorry for the price you've paid for speaking your truth. Have you ever considered sending your children on a different path (i.e. enter a kinder society), since you have relative overseas?

      Hope all is well with you.

      Best Regards, WD.

  4. This is the natural ebb and flow of the politics of life. Big fish will always eat small fish. And all that the small fish can do is hope like hell and against all odds that he or she can grow big enough to do the same to small fries.

  5. @ Xianlong, Gintai, and dotseng,

    Thanks for your comments.

    All of you have noted the "big fish will always eat small fish" culture that prevails in Singapore and that anyone who does not toe the line risks being "blacklisted".

    Call me an idealist or unrealistic, my view is that we are society -- each of us, as individuals, contributes a sliver of behaviour that aggregates into "social norms". As individuals, we each have a choice --
    (a) to stand up and be counted (like what Xianlong and Gintai did),
    (b) to be part of the bullying circus (i.e. "if you can't beat them, join them"),
    (c) to be a silent observer (in bullying incidents, research has shown that silent observers actually empower the bully), or
    (d) to exit and find a new game entirely (i.e. emigrate - like I did).

    Each person has to make his/her own choice and live with his/her conscience. There is no right or wrong answer.

    Ultimately though, we should also remember that letting the bullying culture gain foothold throughout various industries in Singapore has consequences. Consider how bullying in nursing compromises the quality of nursing care. Who ultimately pays the price?

    To quote a scientist, Brian Hare, an assistant professor of anthropology at Duke University:

    "The chimpanzees are violent because they want power, they try to have control and power over others while bonobos are using violence to prevent one for dominating them," Hare continued.

    "Humans are both chimps and bonobos in their nature and the question is how can we release more bonobo and less chimp.

    "I hope bonobos win… it will be better for everyone,"
    he added.

  6. 原来ah doll卧虎藏龙的。mai siao siao. all along i also thought you are piss poor like me.

    1. Hi ASingaporeanSon,

      Really, ah? You mean I have a fairy god mother waiting to help me strike gold? If so, please tell her to hurry up, I can't wait to be "rich". Siao ding dong like me is surely not rich, not by the typical materialistic Singaporean's way of accounting wealth.

      Then again, the Ah Q in me keeps telling myself that "I'm rich" -- I have a rental roof over my head, a boyfriend who loves me, super-duper friends whom I can count on in life, what else would man/woman need?

      In case you missed the opening sentence, the contents of this post is from an anonymous commenter to my blog. I read his/her comment (don't even know the commenter's gender) and found it believable given my own experience of nursing in Singapore (which I provided links to in this post). Thus, I posted his/her comment so that others get to see that it is not just the suay me, but there are also other suay persons out there. What are the odds that the bullying issue is actually endemic?

      Btw, given the relatively close timing of another anonymous comment on my other blog post, I wouldn't be surprised if the anonymous person who posted the above is the same anonymous who commented on Thursday, November 07, 2013 at 7:49:00 AM on my other blog post "SG Nursing Board - To be or not to be?"

      Cheers, WD.

    2. The real 卧虎藏龙 maybe this fellow below.