Monday, February 28, 2011

Just What The Doctor Ordered

Recall that Manpower Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen once said “You’re getting a bargain for the ministers you get… I worked half as much and earn(ed) five times more when I was in the private sector.”  (Channelnewsasia, 9 September 2003). That set everybody (including Goh Chok Tong who was seated next to him at same press conference) wondering if he was dumb to sign on, or just plain bullshitting.

Straits Times decided to tell us what we were supposed to know all along: "It is public knowledge that top surgeons like Dr Ng Eng Hen, prior to joining government service, earned a income of $4.5 million in 2001." What is not public knowledge is whether 2001 was a bonanza year for Ng, or he was consistently invoicing super-sized bills. But we do know that, based on the current ministerial salary of $1.6 million (before add-ons like mid-term, year-end, GDP indexed bonuses, etc), the 2001 number is definitely less than the 5-fold he rattered off. There's another key difference to note. Those in the private sector knows that pay can go up and go down - even Steve Jobs was jobless when his board kicked him out of Apple in May1985- but ministers' payola is recession free and guaranteed. Even when they turn complacent and let terrorists escape through the toilet window.

Ng's name was brought up as illustrative of how brazen Singapore doctors can be when billing for their services.

Dr Khoo Kei Siong, deputy director of Parkway Cancer Centre, reportedly quoted $300,000 for a 30-minute overseas consultation that took less than 3 days including travelling time - the first class air ticket and hotel accommodation are extra costs. Dr Goh Seng Heng, a general practioner once billed $55,000 for 2.5 hours of treatment spread over 15 days. He also charged an Indonesian client $3,000 an hour for the 17 hours of travel and treatment he undertook. Professor Soo Khee Chee, head of the National Cancer Centre and one of 3 witnesses for the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), said Dr Susan Lim could have charged her Brunei client up $300,000 without batting an eyelid - just for the good doctor's service, all extras to be billed separately.

Ng is current Minister of Education, and the $10.9 billion budget allocated for 2011 is second highest, right after Defence. Let's hope he hasn't carried over the billing philosophy of his private practice days.


  1. Welcome to the new era of means testing by surgeons and doctors.

    The deeper your pocket, the more the zeros attached to your bill.

    They are taking a leaf from undertakers.

  2. getting to be like lawyers... shameful profession

  3. It's a known secret that Doctors would help each other; the operative phrase is “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine." Asking other doctors as witnesses is akin to Vatican covering up the priests abuse.

    As doctors like Susan Lim profited from the medical tourism for the rich and prosperous, they are increasingly perceived as bilking the system that is a "free-for-all” putting their financial well-being before their patients. We will be seeing more Knights in white coats that have lost their way, to becoming Knaves.

    It might be true Ng now has longer hour and less pay as implied that we the peasants are so lucky to have him. But as MP he has political power and clout now, let's hope he keeps bitter medicine at bay.

  4. Q: Why would a top surgeon from First World Singapore be a maid?

    A: Please ask Dr Susan Lim.

    Is this prostitution of the soul (not to mention self-respect)?

  5. first, ng eng hen obviously cant count, or the ST is playing down his earnings. $4.5m is just 3 times $1.5 million.

    second, what price would mr ng put on the power he now wields and the prestige that goes with it? those factors seem to have been forgotten.

    thirdly, would mr ng rate helping people to a better life as something that's "priceless"? or is he just one of those money-grubbing, money counting sorts we've been busy raising in this country for the last 50 years?

    if anything, susan lim's obscene charges is one very good reason why it's simply not worth having stacks and stacks of money. those little rides people of her sort want to take you on are simply not worth the price.

    i wonder what she does with all her cash. after all, she can't take it with her when she dies.

  6. I went for MOE pri teacher's interview. According to their standard, $ 4340 starting salary is very low for them.

  7. You forgot to mention that all MPs who hold office - that term is so broad that the majority of sitting MPs are covered - get to enjoy life long pensions, which is up to 2/3rds of their highest drawn pay during their tenure. So it doesn't matter that they get demoted when they mess up because the pension is pegged at the highest pay, even if it was for 1 year out of 15 years of service.

    Who gets pensions in the private sector? Nobody! And yet the government says that ministers' pay must be pegged to private sector. In that case, pensions must be removed immediately.

    Oh, did also I mention that pension payments for politicians are tax-free, and that they can get it as a tax free lump sum as well, if they wish? The lump sum is about 17 years of pension. For MM, SM or PM, that amount will be truly mindboggling. Defnitely can buy a few more GCBS, no problem.

    With ever increasing ministerial and top civil servants pay, the PAP Government is digging an ever-deeper hole for our furture generations who have to pay for the multi-million dollar annual pensions of ex PAP policiticans and elite
    civil servants. I am truly worried. But since this pension system benefits politicians directly and nicely pads up their bank balance for their lifetimes, can you expect any PAP politician to suggest abolishing it?

    I am surprised that the Auditor-General has never criticised this. Oh, I forgot. The Auditor-General is also entitled to a lifelong pension.

  8. OMG! And he has the audacity to tell peasants "No universal healthcare. No entitlements. Just Opportunities". My foot. And That's what makes Prince so smart. He's aligned everyones' interest through a comp incentive so great no one will break rank. Had he not done so, he would not have had the command of all the old/new guards to serve his empire leegimes. To break this cycle, we need to attack LHL. I hope some Opposition party will contest in his GRC.!

  9. "i wonder what she does with all her cash. after all, she can't take it with her when she dies".

    That's a good one. How come the ST Reporters never raised this hard truth question with LKY ?

  10. Anonymous 9.18PM
    Your post just exposes the hypocrisy of the MIWs.
    They refused to implement minimum wage for the masses but milk the taxpapers to its maximum
    with obscene salaries and pensions.
    Whatever happens to what Wooden once said that
    we are all in it together?

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