East Coast-Fengshan Town Council has responded to The Independent’s queries on a S$1,000 fine it issued to a medical clinic for leaving chairs outside the clinic in a public area.
Earlier this week, WAN Medical Clinic, a clinic located at Block 416 Bedok North Ave 2, said that it has been fined a hefty S$1,000 by the People’s Action Party-held (PAP-held) town council, after the clinic staff placed chairs outside the clinic for the elderly to sit on while they wait to see the doctor or collect their medication.
Dr Muhammad Iqmal Bin Abdullah, the doctor who runs WAN Medical Clinic, said that the Town Council has been “up in arms” over the chairs that have been placed outside the clinic for the use of the elderly and the sick, for the past 7 years since he opened the clinic.
When the clinic was closed for the Hari Raya holidays, the Town Council sent the clinic a notice of composition. Dated 13 June 2019, the notice asks the clinic to pay a composition fine of S$1,000 for placing the chairs in a common property or open place and for leaving the chairs overnight at a yellow box on the road outside the clinic.
Sharing a photo of the notice of composition, Dr Iqmal wrote on Facebook: “For almost 7 years now since I started my clinic, East Coast Bedok Town Council has been up in arms about us putting chairs outside the clinic for the elderly and the sick to sit down.
“So this time round when we closed for the Hari Raya, they took the opportunity to catch us so that they can earn from this. We paid for the yellow box.
“We do not sell anything in the yellow box nor use it for smoking. Just chairs for the elderly and the weak to sit on while waiting to see the doctor.”
Dr Iqmal added that he was simply following the example of PAP politician Khaw Boon Wan who instructed polyclinics to place chairs outside their facilities for the elderly to use, when he was Health Minister. The medical doctor said: “It’s sad when there are many other more important things but the the East Coast Town Council put this as their priority.”
In a subsequent Facebook video, Dr Iqmal shared that the Town Council told him to remove the chairs “urgently”.
In the video, Dr Iqmal said that he was receiving treatment at Sengkang General Hospital himself but had to leave the hospital – with two IV cannulas still attached to his hands – in order to remove the chairs outside his clinic. He said:
“The Town Council say must remove the chairs. They don’t want the elderly to be sitting down on the chairs, I don’t know why. I don’t know why they have CHAS for osteoarthritis, for people who are sick – they don’t want them to be sitting down here. So I have to remove the chairs, they say it’s urgent.”
Responding to the Facebook posts, East Coast-Fengshan Town Council said that it has no issue with the chairs being left outside for the use of patients during the clinic’s operating hours. It, however, said that it is an offence to leave the chairs outside overnight, after operating hours.
Revealing that this rule is in place because items such as chairs are “fire hazard items which may catch fire when the shops are closed in the evenings,” the town council said that it has been flexible and waived summons it issued against the clinic in the past when they moved the chairs indoors after operating hours.
A spokesperson representing the town council said:
“The reason behind the issuance of the fine of $1,000/- to Wan Medical Clinic at Blk 416 Bedok North Ave 2 was for the offence of leaving their chairs overnight at the yellow box after the close of their business hours.
“Prior to the issuance of the fine, the Town Council had sent notices to all shop owners and tenants not to leave their items such as chairs, display racks, cart boxes and their merchandise etc overnight at the common areas (yellow boxes included) after the close of their business hours as these are fire hazard items which may catch fire when the shops are closed in the evenings.
“The SCDF has also issued guidelines to advise all Town Council to ensure their common areas do not have such items left overnight by their shop owners/tenants when they are closed for business.
“The clinic together with all the other shops has also been warned to keep these items at night.
“We are not against the placing of chairs in the yellow box for patients’ use during operating hours, but the shop tenant should keep their chairs when there are not in operation. Following our warnings, we have issued a few summons to similar shops who have flouted this condition under the permit given to them for the use of the yellow box.
“However, the Town Council has exercised flexibility to waive many of these summons when the shop owners/tenants (Wan Medical Clinic included) agree not to leave their items overnight but to keep them when they are closed for business in the evenings.
“To keep our neighbourhood safe, the Town Council will continue to do our part to ensure all shop owners co-operate.”