Wednesday, April 18, 2012
"That used to be us" -Why I speak out against excessive bureaucracy
Bureaucracy could be useful when there is chaos and it helps bring order to how society works.
However too much of it could adversely affect our competitiveness and increase cost of service delivery ( in my case for healthcare).
Straits Times Health journalist Salma Khalik (Has HSA bitten off more than it can chew? click here)
has very succinctly encapsulated why I am particularly disturbed by excessive regulation.
To put things in perspective, not every doctor agrees with my views about this issue.
Blogger gigamole ( whom I presume is a female doctor) (click here) thinks what HSA does is right and that some doctors ( and journalists who have their own agenda) are giving HSA a hard time that it does’t deserve. Anyway, to each her own.
In fact, the medical community is very small and we know each other. I know Prof John Lim ( CEO HSA) well and bears him no ill-will. Prof John Wong is also an eminent doctor and is a friend of a friend etc. I wish I could just close my eyes and everything will sort itself out but the world does not work like that, sigh!
The letter that I wrote to the forum ( yah- it was only published in the online version only,sob!) partly reveals why I feel that if I keep quiet about this matter, Singapore is the worse for it . Okay- there is a narcissist somewhere inside me trying to break out.
The original letter and the letter published in ST Forum (click here)
If we allow bureaucracy to stifle our competitiveness, we might only be able to say “That used to be us”
Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman and world-renowned foreign affair expert Michael Mandebaum, wrote a book entitled “That used to be us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back”. The title was actually quoted from President Barack Obama who when comparing advances in China and Singapore to those in America remarked, “ That used to be us”.
Singapore is mentioned favorably several times in this must-read book for all America-watchers.
I have on several occasions (perhaps more than I should), boasted to many foreign friends that Singapore works due to its emphasis on efficiency and minimised bureaucracy. I would cite how I had literally gone to the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority and collected my new passport in less than 10 minutes flat and that when the Singapore Power technician has an appointment to turn on the water/utilities, he keeps the time (give or take half hour). This usually holds true for many corporate entities also.
Coincidentally, I was sharing with someone not too long ago that in my chosen profession of Medicine, we are always at the cutting edge and almost always the first to be able to use medical devices, often ahead of most parts of Asia and even Australasia. Granted, it is not always advantageous to be early adopters, but my experience has been that if these devices are cleared by major overseas agencies, such as FDA and Europe’s CE, safety is almost always assured.
Hence, when my doctor friends discovered that this would no longer be possible, we had no choice but to feedback to the proper authorities. Many of us sincerely feel that unless HSA is willing to make substantial changes to the way it functions, Singapore, not just the medical profession, would be the loser.
Are we willing to exchange efficiency for bureaucracy?
We are renowned for our nimbleness and ability to adapt at a moment’s notice, can we afford to behave like a super-tanker that takes miles to turn around?
Over the past decades, our healthcare system had been built painstakingly with the support of the manufacturers and distributors of medical devices, it would be a real pity if all we can do is to say some time in the future, “That used to be us!”, when we see neighboring healthcare systems overtake us, one by one.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan