Private hospitals making it difficult for workers to access own patient records

Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Articles, Stories

hooq_samesul_5893a

Hooq Samesul (above) went back to Raffles Hospital where he had been treated in March 2012. He asked for a copy of his medical records and a statement as to many days’ medical leave was given to him.

“Nurse say, ‘No give’,” he recounts to Transient Workers Count Too, meaning that his request was refused. “She say, ‘MC give to company already’. ”

This appears to be a violation of medical ethics. The Singapore Medical Council’s Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines says:

4.2.4.1 Right to information
A doctor shall provide adequate information to a patient so that he can make informed choices about his further medical management. A doctor shall provide information to the best of his ability, communicate clearly and in a language that is understood by the patient.

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According to Debbie Fordyce, executive committee member of TWC2, this is not the first time that Raffles Hospital has refused to provide a copy of medical records to the patient. She is frustrated that this hospital appears to be adopting a policy of providing confidential patient information to the payer, which in the case of migrant workers is typically the employer, rather than the patient himself.

Hooq Samesul had a bit of his finger sliced off in a workplace accident on 3 March 2012. His supervisor took him to Raffles Hospital where he was given urgent treatment and kept for a night. On discharge the next day, “Hospital no give MC paper,” he tells TWC2.

“They give MC paper to office.”

He says the hospital didn’t even tell him that the medical certificate was for two months; he only learnt of it later.

Despite a follow-up appointment with Raffles Hospital, he was unhappy with the standard of care. Three months after the injury, his finger still hurt, but Raffles Hospital refused to extend his MC. He then made his way to Alexandra Hospital which saw that the problem was serious enough to warrant a further 27 days’ medical leave.

By now (February 2013), the treatment process is over, and he has even undergone an assessment for permanent incapacity compensation. He has been awarded 7 points with a pay-out above $10,000.

Apparently, the employer or the insurer has lodged an objection to the assessment, though exactly what that objection is, isn’t clear to Samesul. Perhaps the employer is saying the injury was not sustained at work? Or that the injury treated at Raffles Hospital was a different injury than that seen by Alexandra Hospital three months later?

It is thus important for Samesul to have a copy of the medical records from Raffles Hospital. The refusal of the hospital will severely prejudice his right to compensation.

ismail_late_abdul_khaleque_5898aThe same evening, another worker came with a similar tale. Ismail Late Abdul Khaleque (right) injured his back while working at a shipyard. His supervisor gave him a referral letter, put him in the company lorry and told the driver to take him to West Point Hospital. There, he was given just one day’s  medical leave and some medicine.

“But pain not stop,” he tells TWC2 of the days following the injury. “I cannot working, I cannot even walking.”

He says he couldn’t even perform light duties, which Westpoint certified him fit for, for 21 subsequent days. So he too went to Alexandra Hospital.

He is still under treatment but meanwhile has complained to the Ministry of Manpower that his employer has not paid him any ‘MC pay’. His case officer at the ministry has told him to get a copy of his medical records from West Point Hospital, a turn of events which suggests that the employer may be disputing whether he was even injured at work as Ismail claims.

“So today, I go West Point,” Ismail tells TWC2, “and they say ‘Today cannot give you report, you come back on Monday’.”

But there’s a twist.

“They say, on Monday, I must bring $83. If no money, they not give me report.”

Why would it cost $83 to provide him photocopies of his own patient record? Are hospitals too in the business of milking migrant workers for profit?

The invoice presented to Ismail who had to pay on the spot. He made three trips to West Point before he finally got the medical report.

The invoice presented to Ismail who had to pay on the spot. He made three trips to West Point before he finally got the medical report.

 

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our
means.

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