HEALTH-CARE HUMANITY AWARDS
Nurse with cancer still took care of patients
Yeo Lay Chin, who's terminally ill, is one of 34 health-care workers honoured for their contributions
By Lee Hui Chieh
EVEN after she discovered that she had a rare form of bone cancer in 1999, Ms Yeo Lay Chin continued taking care of patients at the National Heart Centre.
The terminally ill nurse manager, 48, stopped working in the wards only about a year ago, when the pain in her right leg made walking difficult.
She now works as an administrator in the heart centre, which is paying all her medical bills.
The centre's assistant director of nursing, Ms Kwek Koon Roan, said: 'She knows that she may not have many days left, but she goes around encouraging other patients. It's really very brave of her.'
Ms Yeo, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, said: 'Patients get a bit depressed when they have to stay in hospital for so long, so sometimes I tell them my story. Usually they are quite touched, and say: 'You still come to work? You're still so strong,' and they are encouraged.
'Over the years, I've grown to like this job. I like to interact with the patients, watch them getting well.
'As long as I can contribute, I'd like to continue working.'
For her courage, dedication and selflessness, Ms Yeo was named one of the 34 winners of this year's inaugural Health-care Humanity Awards.
Disbursed by the Courage Fund, a $32-million foundation set up to help those affected by the Sars outbreak last year, the new annual awards honour health-care workers for humanitarian contributions to the community.
Each recipient was presented with a medallion and $1,500 by President S R Nathan in a ceremony yesterday, the first anniversary of the end of the Sars outbreak in Singapore.
It was also attended by Minister of State for Health and Transport Balaji Sadasivan.
A total of 171 health-care workers were nominated by their employers, peers, patients or members of the public.
Said the chairman of this year's five-member judging panel, Lieutenant-General (Ret) Winston Choo: 'The winners were people who went beyond the call of duty.'
Three-quarters were nurses, with doctors and other health-care workers making up the rest.
Among the six doctors were respected pioneers Professor Tan Cheng Lim and Dr Edmond Monteiro.
Prof Tan, 66, a senior consultant at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, was one of the first doctors to cure childhood leukaemia here.
Dr Monteiro, a consultant at the Communicable Disease Centre (CDC), was among the first doctors to treat Aids patients in Singapore.
Now 70, he still sees outpatients who have Aids.
Last year, when other CDC doctors had their hands full with Sars, the care of these patients came entirely under his charge for three months.
The awards also recognised three other caregivers at the CDC for their work with Aids patients - senior medical social worker Ho Lai Peng, 35, assistant nursing manager Mary Stevens, 49, and nursing officer Thayalamurugan Vellasamy, 38.
Dr Monteiro said he was pleased to see the team members being recognised, as few health-care workers wanted to care for Aids patients in the early years, when fear and ignorance still surrounded the disease.
He said: 'I'm very happy to see the team, not so much myself, get awards. Taking care of the patients requires teamwork... and I couldn't possibly do it on my own.'