The story made it to the front page. When TWC2 received a copy from Healthserve of a circular letter issued jointly by the Ministries of Health and Manpower to all registered medical practitioners, we knew it would be something the Straits Times might be interested in. We contacted the newspaper and shared it with them.
TWC2 also conducted a survey at our Cuff Road Project to see how widespread the problem of too little medical leave was.
Both stories made it to the Sunday Times, 7 July 2013. That about the government’s letter and the problem it was addressing got space on the front page. The letter cautioned doctors against being influenced by employers, and “issuing medical certificates to injured workers that are inadequate in relation to the nature and severity of their injuries”. Some cases are now being investigated by the professional body, the Singapore Medical Council.
Wrote the Sunday Times:
The Manpower and Health ministries have acted on complaints that some injured workers are getting too little medical leave from doctors because their bosses want to avoid reporting workplace accidents.
Now all doctors here have been reminded to give injured workers the days off they deserve and warned of the consequences if they fail to do so.
The newspaper also reported that there were 11,113 workplace injuries reported here last year — almost 1,000 more than in 2011.
It also quoted Singapore Medical Association ethics expert Dr T Thirumoorthy, who said:
“A doctor’s commercial relationship with the company may come in conflict with his professional obligations to the patient.
Without a doubt, a doctor’s primary obligation should be to serve the welfare and best interest of the patient.”
On page 8 of the same edition, the Sunday Times ran a story based on our survey. A fuller discussion of our survey results can be found here: Nearly one in three accidents may not have been promptly reported. It also featured the experience of a Bangladeshi worker who attends our free meals programme:
When construction worker Bolai Kumar Ghosh, 42, injured his left wrist in a worksite accident in May last year, his employer took him to a clinic in a well-known private hospital.
The Bangladeshi, whose work involves lifting heavy loads, was given just two days of medical leave and five days of ‘light duty’.
After a week, still in pain and fearing that returning to work would worsen his injury, Mr Ghosh returned to the clinic but he was not given more medical leave.
He eventually sought treatment at Singapore General Hospital, where he underwent tests and was given 76 days off plus six months of light duty.
The rest of the article described TWC2’s survey findings and reported our longstanding concern about employers and doctors trying to game the system.
(See also Don’t dictate sick leave, employers told.)