1 in 5 SAF servicemen has asthma: Defence Minister

SINGAPORE - One in five Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen has asthma, revealed Minister of Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in Parliament today.

However, he noted that the majority of these cases are mild, and many of them have gone through military traiing without any adverse effects.

Dr Ng was replying to a question asked in parliament about whether SAF should relook its medical classfication system.

This comes in the footsteps of a string of servicemen deaths, including the death of full-time national serviceman Domnique Sarron Lee, who collapsed during training from what is believed to have been an asthma attack.

Dr Ng said that for the last 20 years, servicemen with mild asthma have been referred to as Physical Employment Status (PES) of A or B.

They are considered combat-fit and are required to serve at least nine weeks of Basic Military Traiing and undergo combat training and clear obstacles.

During today's parliamentary sitting, he stressed that the safety of servicemen is the top priority for his ministry and SAF.

He added that very incident resulting in an injury or death gets top management priority to make it right, and that his ministry incorporates findings and recommendations from independent investigations by the Police and State Coroner.

He said that if mistakes are discovered to have been made, Mindef will own up to them, and in the process learn from and rectify them for continuous improvement.

Dr Ng also updated Parliament on Mindef's investigation procedures, announcing that an independent Committee of Inquiry (COI) has been formed to look into the deaths of full-time national servicemen Private Amirul Syahmi Kamal and Private Dominique.

The four-man committee is to determine if the measures which were taken to treat, resuscitate and evacuate the two NS men were adequate and prompt.

The COI, chaired by a senior civil servant from outside Mindef and including a senior doctor from the public sector, will also propose measures to recitify shortcomings, if any are found.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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