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Rahman Md Jaminur found himself at the bottom of a drain, severe pain shooting from his right ankle. His back also hurt. Fortunately, his phone was within reach and he called his friend. Help, I fell.
Two co-workers came running. They carried him to the construction site office where the safety supervisor was. The latter said, “Must go hospital.” The works supervisor, who had then arrived too, said he had no money for a taxi. He then phoned the boss for advice, after which he said the boss forbade him from calling for an ambulance.
“Do you have bus card?” the supervisor asked Rahman, now nearly fainting from the pain.
“Yes, have,” Rahman mumbled.
What happened next is almost unbelievable. The works supervisor then said, “We have to go to the doctor by bus.” And not just to any doctor, but upon the boss’ instructions, to a doctor 16 km away, as the crow flies. By road, it would have been 25 km or so.
The supervisor then nominated one co-worker to help him, and the three (i.e. including Rahman) waited for a bus which would take them from Nanyang Technological University (where the accident occurred) to Pioneer Road. There, they got off the bus and changed to another to go to Woodlands. Rahman cannot say how long they were on the bus as it slowly made its way north, stopping every 400 – 500 metres or so; he was on the verge of passing out.
They reached Royal Medical Centre at Block 111, Woodlands Street 13 around 12:30 pm. “But clinic closed,” recalls Rahman. “Maybe, lunchtime, I don’t know why.”
More calls were made and new instructions given to go to Gleneagles Hospital. That’s another 16 km as the crow flies, and this time, perhaps 30 km by road. So Rahman had to hobble, broken right ankle notwithstanding, about 600 metres across a vast field under the blazing sun to Woodlands Interchange, then up an escalator to the platform to take a train to Jurong East. From Jurong East, they took another bus that stopped-started, stopped-started all the way to Napier Road.
Here’s the schematic diagram of the trips, superimposed on a Google map:
By the time he received medical attention, half a day had elapsed since he fell.
Your writer wonders: If someone fell and had internal injuries that were not visible externally, what would happen? He could bleed to death internally in the while these chaps toured Singapore. The boss would be guilty of negligent homicide.
Consider this too: All this while, the works supervisor would not be on site while work carried on. With no supervision, what if another accident happened? What is the cost of the supervisor’s and the co-worker’s salary for the day that they too went on a grand tour of Singapore with Rahman? Would not this cost be the same as paying for an ambulance? This penny-wise pound-foolish attitude of employers is astounding.
Rahman was six rungs up a ladder, holding a drill-like tool. “I was breaking concrete,” he says of the moments before he fell. Possibly as a result of the vibration from the tool, the foot of the ladder moved or slipped into a drain nearby. Rahman came tumbling down, but his foot was caught between the rungs. The heavy drill also came down; fortunately it didn’t crash onto him.
“Nobody see me fall. No worker near,” he says. He reached for his mobile phone and called his friend. Help, I fell.
Three days after the accident which occurred on 6 April 2014, he was operated on. “Two screws put inside,” says Rahman. The fact that surgery was necessary tells us that it was no small injury. Might it have been aggravated by making him travel here and there in the hours after the incident?
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