It is timely and poignant to reflect about National Day (9th Aug) and Nurses’ Day (1st Aug) together as these are, to me, inextricably inter-twined.
I sense disparate forces and interests threatening to tear the Singapore fabric apart at the seams even as we debate immigration policies and it may be useful to look at the nurses in our hospitals for an analogy.
Nurses (local and foreign-born) are unheralded heroes that ensure doctors’ orders are carried out to the exact schedule and dosage; they are the first to alert doctors when your pulse or skin tone signals an impending complication; their warm touch assure you when you lay on the trolley on the way to the operating suite and their caring eyes tell you that you are not alone when you are battling your way back to health.
It matters less that these nurses speak Queen’s English (none do) or versions laced with Singlish, Tagalog, Burmese or Putonghua but more that they conduct themselves as professionals as befit modern-day Florence Nightingales.
Even as Singapore rolls back its open-door immigration policy in response to electoral setbacks to the ruling party, let us remember those foreigners who have chosen to stay, who have decided to be one of “us” by putting their shoulders to the wheel. They should not be made to feel ostracized or that they are the cause of all of Singapore’s woes.
All Singaporeans should have the generosity of heart to help them integrate just as many of our forefathers have been helped.
Just as foreign-born nurses have been a blessing for our healthcare system, diversity of Singaporeans should be viewed in a positive light and welcomed.
Integration will take time and may even be painful, more so for these foreigners who live and work amongst us, often in fear.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan