Dr Tan Cheng Bock

Building Trust and Confidence

Recently, 2 articles in The Straits Times caught my attention i.e. ‘TRENDING COVID-19 CLAIMS: FACT OR FICTION? (ST, 17 June 2021) and “MOH COUNTERS CLAIMS BY DOCS URGING DELAY IN JABS FOR YOUNG” (ST, 29 June 2021). {Links below }

The point of those reports was to rebut Covid-related statements put out by certain doctors. So the reports contained statements from local medical experts and the MOH setting out why the public should not believe the positions held by these doctors. Parts of those reports came across as overly dismissive of those doctors.

Let me on the outset say that it is important for the health authorities to dispel myths, unfounded suspicions and conspiracy theories that appear to emanate from ‘professional sources’. Layman place their trust on credentials and do not have the bandwidth to critically analyse supposed ‘scientific’ information. So we need trusted and learned sources to tell the public what they ought to believe or reject.

But how you say things is as important as what you say. Trusted sources of information can better win over opposing views if they do not come across as dismissive or arrogant. After all, a gentle answer turns away wrath.

Now these doctors who subscribe to non-mainstream views may not possess or have had the opportunity to consider relevant data. Some may even be plainly wrong. But they all care enough to surface fears and concerns, out of a sense of obligation to their medical oath. If they do not have any public forum to ventilate these concerns, if they do not feel that they can be heard, if the only response they get from health authorities and local experts is scorn and ridicule, then we run the risk of driving these views underground. And then there will be no more conversation.

The result will be a more confused public. Therein lies the greater danger. Fighting Covid 19 and educating the public on the disease is after all a national effort. We cannot afford to polarise opinions to the point of enmity. Health professionals must all try to work together.

I would therefore urge the health authorities to consider convening a dedicated online public forum or platform for medical professionals and health scientists to raise topics of concern. Not every alternate perspective should be dismissed as an attempt to spread misinformation or conspiracy theories. Medical professionals deserve a safe and welcoming space to discuss these issues so that alternate views receive a fair hearing, and if necessary, be robustly rebutted. Newspaper columns are simply not the best channels to exchange scientific opinions.

It is time for medical professionals and health scientists to build bridges and come together. To allow the best ideas to prevail, uphold the dignity of the medical calling and help the country address this national crisis. A top down approach is not the most helpful in dispelling questions. But with open, respectful discussions, we can – together, build trust and confidence for the way ahead.


The above article was published on Facebook by Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Chairman of Progress Singapore Party, PSP.
The article is re-published here with kind permission from Dr Tan.

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