Kehar battled malaria, Sars in Singapore

Singapore public health officer Kehar Singh, who joined the Ministry of Health in 1970, was featured in two-volume book set Heart Of Public Service

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| Singapore | 3 Nov 2015 | Asia Samachar |
IMSERT: Kehar SIngh (second from left) at the launch of the book which also captures his story at Singapore's Ministry of Health. - PHOTO PSD SINGAPORE/ST
IMSERT: Kehar SIngh (second from left) at the launch of the book which also captures his story at Singapore’s Ministry of Health. – PHOTO PSD SINGAPORE/ST

Singapore public health officer Kehar Singh, who joined the Ministry of Health in 1970, is one of the persons featured in a two-volume book on the republic’s public service.

Kehar, 66, has weathered various crises such as the 1974 malaria outbreak and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis in 2003.

After retiring at 62, he was re-employed and put in charge of tracing tuberculosis patients who refuse to take their medication and making sure they go for hospital treatments.

“Officers like us will always have a role to play. You can never predict what kind of diseases might strike us from overseas,” he tells The Straits Times in an interview [The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2015, ‘He fights on to keep public safe, from malaria to Sars’].

Kehar is reported to have taken fewer than 20 days of medical leave throughout his 45 years on the job.

He is featured in in the two-volume Heart Of Public Service, a two-volume book set launched by the Public Service Division, which depict the physical and social changes in Singapore.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Chee Hean (middle, red tie) launched the book together with civil service head Peter Ong and PSD permanent secretary Yong Ying-I in mid-October.

Retired judicial commissioner Amarjeet Singh, now a senior consultant at law firm KhattarWong LLP, was also featured in another book gathered experiences of Singaporeans who have worked with the UN.

SEE ALSO: Amarjeet’s war crimes court stint captured in Singapore book

The Straits Times article writes:

When illegal hawkers thronged the back alleys of Singapore in the 1970s and fuelled the spread of diseases such as typhoid and malaria through unhygienic practices, Mr Kehar Singh had the unenviable job of clearing them out.

Once, he narrowly missed getting what could have been a fatal injury when a coconut seller near Upper Changi Road lunged at him and four other public health officers with an ice pick when they tried to put an end to his illegal business.

Mr Singh was also involved in the Singapore River clean-up following his transfer in the 1970s to the Environment Ministry.

It lasted from 1977 to 1987: “We had to walk around and trace the sources of pollution. The illegal hawkers used to litter everywhere and, when heavy rain comes, all the dirty food scraps would all wash down into the Singapore River.”

In 1974, Singapore was hit by a malaria outbreak, affecting almost 60 people. Containing it was a trying process that demanded “constant surveillance” by taking blood samples and tracking down cases. By 1982, Singapore was declared malaria-free.

The Sars outbreak in 2003, however, stunned everyone. “We had already attained such a high standard of public health and paved the way for access to clean water, but this disease was airborne,” said Mr Singh.

Singapore was enveloped in an atmosphere of fear, with many Sars patients initially refusing to be admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for treatment. “They thought that they were doomed once they entered the hospital,” he said.

At the Communicable Disease Centre, he and 11 other health officers worked with mobilised army personnel to interview Sars patients and trace their points of contact so that quarantine orders could be issued. “We left no stone unturned. It was important that we had a very good system of inter-ministry cooperation, so that we could mobilise fast and trace individuals’ addresses,” he recalled.

RELATED STORY:

Amarjeet’s war crimes court stint captured in Singapore book(Asia Samachar, 1 Nov 2015)

Davinder named Singapore’s best dispute lawyer (Asia Samachar, 26 Sept 2015)

Balli Jaswal shortlisted for inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize (Asia Samachar, 29 Oct 2015)

 

 

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