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By Emily Benjamin
At National University Hospital (NUH) where Khan Momen was brought to after his accident, the orthopaedic surgeon only spoke “little bit to me”, said the injured worker. The surgeon spoke mostly to the company foreman and safety officer, and at some distance from the patient too. While Khan Momen could not hear the entire conversation, he heard enough. He heard the foreman telling the doctor that it was a “play play accident.”
Khan tells TWC2 that this was not at all the case.
Indeed, a misleading record in his medical history such as this can seriously jeopardise his chances of compensation later on.
The accident happened on 19 April 2013, at around 3:30 pm. Construction worker Khan Momen, 25, was loading wood onto a platform from a scissor lift. He lost his balance and fell backwards off the scissor lift onto the ground approximately one metre below, breaking his right forearm.
A fellow worker witnessed the injury.
The safety officer and foreman were informed, and Khan Momen was taken to NUH in the company lorry.
One more indignity was to quickly follow after treatment at the emergency unit. Company officials seized from him the hospital card that listed his follow-up appointments, he reported to TWC2.
And then when, in great pain, he went to the office to speak with the boss, “Boss say, ‘I don’t know nothing about accident,'” recalls the worker, “and then he say, ‘Go! Go! Don’t want to talk to you!'”
Khan Momen didn’t seem to have received full treatment that first visit, because when, still in severe pain, he made his way back a week later, the hospital told him that he would need surgery and metal implants to correct his broken forearm. Surgery was scheduled for the following week. However, the hospital explained, they would first need a letter from his company guaranteeing that they would pay for the surgery before they could operate. Khan was sent home with a supply of pain medication.
One week passed and it was the day of the surgery but the hospital still had not received the necessary guarantee letter. So the surgery was re-scheduled for two weeks later and again, Khan was sent home without the surgery he needed.
Khan called his employment agent to report that he wasn’t getting proper medical attention and, if necessary, he would make a police report. “Then agent say, ‘Wait, wait, wait’,” and promised to try to resolve the situation without getting the police involved. Five minutes later, the agent called back to say that the company would issue the guarantee letter so he could get his surgery.
Khan received his surgery and the necessary metal implant and was discharged from hospital with three months of medical leave. But the employer also cancelled his work permit and didn’t follow through with paying Khan his medical leave wages as required by law.
Some time passed and again Khan began feeling “many many pain”. He went back to the hospital.
At the hospital, the doctor told him that it was urgent that he have a second surgery to remove the metal from his arm. But the hospital needed a new guarantee letter from the (former) employer stating they would cover the second surgery before they could operate. So again, Khan would have to wait.
“Regardless of whether the employer has cancelled the work permit,” explains TWC2 social worker Kenneth Soh, “the company is still responsible for providing essential medical care, under the work pass conditions.” These conditions are laid down by the Manpower ministry.
And this is where our story trails off. As of 24 October 2013 (the interview date), the company still hasn’t issued the guarantee letter for the “urgent” second operation. It’s been six months since the accident. Khan is still waiting. He is still in pain.
Which side is play playing?
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