The second doctor told Rafiqul he needed an X-ray. But “I no money for X-ray,” he reports to TWC2, and when he asked his company for a referral letter, “the company say I cannot have letter.” He eventually had to find the money to pay for it himself. It took a week.
Meanwhile, his arm remained broken, nearly paralysing him with pain.
Sitting opposite me today, Rafiqul Islam looks healthy and strong despite a discoloured cast around his left wrist and arm. But there was a time when he despaired of getting any help, for his is a story of negligence by many parties involved, including doctors and his employer. They have turned what was a straightforward injury in June 2012 into a surgically more complex case than it need be and imposed unnecessary financial strain on the worker.
Rafiqul broke his arm falling three metres to the ground while doing his job at an army camp. He had been up on scaffolding fixing a railing.
Incredibly, his supervisor told him to hold off visiting a doctor, although the pain was obviously more severe than a simple sprain. Unable to bear it any longer, Rafiqul urgently requested the next day for a referral to see the company doctor at Healthway. This time, the referral was granted, but the doctor at the clinic merely gave him some medication and two days of medical leave. Neither proved adequate as the pain continued.
His company, Master Contract Services, stalled the second referral to the doctor, telling him to see a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner instead. Ignoring what seemed like an absurd request, Rafiqul went ahead to another doctor– who told him that his condition had worsened and an emergency X-ray would be needed. But, as Rafiqul explained, he didn’t have the money to pay for it.
This second clinic tried to help by calling his company to persuade the employer to provide payment for the X-ray, but the company rejected it as well.
It was only a week later that Rafiqul went for an X-ray at the Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association (SATA) for which he paid himself. Back at the doctor’s, he was given two weeks of medical leave, and later on transferred to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) for an operation.
Rafiqul is still undergoing treatment at KTPH, after the operation re-broke his bone to align and fuse it back properly – the result of the delay in medical treatment. On account of the company’s refusal to issue a Letter of Guarantee to KTPH, Rafiqul had to make several visits to MOM to expedite the process. The operation was eventually scheduled for 30 November, about five months after his fall.
Since his Work Permit was cancelled on the 25 September 2012, Rafiqul has been paying for his own medical expenses, which continue to mount with every follow-up visit to the hospital. He has forked out more than a thousand dollars so far, but have still not paid the $250 he owes for the last visit.
It has been a long time coming, but finally his arm is healing properly.
Rafiqul has carefully kept all receipts. Since, by law, the employer is supposed to pay for medical treatment, he has a right to reimbursement.
He is weary just from telling his story, but as a fellow foreign worker friend chimes in at the end of the interview, “Rafiqul, you are lucky you are not dead!” – he breaks into a faint smile.