By Kirsten Han
SINGAPORE (AA) – Singapore's government slammed an online news blog Tuesday for telling a “blatant lie” in a commentary that stated that taxpayers were footing the bill for Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s hospitalization following his stroke.
News website TR Emeritus published a short comment earlier this month claiming that Heng’s medical bills could run up to S$15,000 ($11,058) a day, and that the cost would be borne by the taxpayer.
"Being an A-class patient means being surrounded round the clock by Senior Consultant neurologists at the Professor and A/Professor-level, daily checks by other specialists, doctors, advanced practicing nurses, and a rotating team of bodyguards,” said the commentary.
No byline or author was provided.
A press statement from the government read, "TR Emeritus has once again sought to mislead the public by publishing a vicious claim that a Cabinet minister is 'fully entitled to free A-Class healthcare in government and restructured hospitals', giving the impression minister Heng Swee Keat’s medical expenses are being funded by taxpayers."
The commentary was followed by an editor’s note saying that while the TR Emeritus editors wished Heng well, they had chosen to publish the article to "show an alternative angle to his situation and the underlying sociopolitical issues”.
The Singapore government dismissed this note, saying: "A vicious lie is not an 'alternative angle'. Choosing to run an article that contained glaring misinformation that could have been easily searched and verified online is irresponsible."
The government stated that all ministers are on the same medical benefit scheme as most civil servants, in which they are able to buy medical insurance to cover hospital fees.
"Ministers receive no extra benefits for themselves or their spouses/children,” the statement added.
TR Emeritus issued an apology on its Facebook page Tuesday morning.
"As a volunteer-managed platform, we have republished the piece -- after edits for clarity -- without checking the underlying facts. We therefore extend our apologies for this matter,” it said.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat collapsed during a Cabinet meeting May 12 after an aneurysm caused a stroke.
The aneurysm has been successfully closed, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said May 30 that he was “recovering well” in intensive care.