“I no have money,” said Hashem. “How to take bus?”
“So you mean you didn’t go to your hospital for your appointment?” I asked. “You must go. Otherwise, how are you going to get well?”
“I go. I walk there.”
A quick estimation of the distance from the dinky hole that Hashem sleeps in, somewhere in Little India, to Singapore General Hospital would be about 4 kilometres. For a healthy person, it might take about an hour on foot. For Hashem, with his injured back and knee, it might have taken him two hours, hurting all the way, and another two hours walking back. Might it also aggravate the injury?
About two-thirds of the male workers who sign up at TWC2’s soup kitchen have suffered a workplace injury. And generally, it is those who have had relatively serious injuries who come to us. Workers with minor injuries heal quickly and are soon back at work; they do not need to approach TWC2 for help.
Those with more serious injuries are typically laid off by employers who do not want to have “deadweight” on their payroll. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) puts them on Special Passes after their employers have cancelled their Work Permits, but a condition of Special Passes is that the men must not seek work. In any case, with their injuries, they can’t work.
So they are left languishing for months unable to work and desperately broke.
Yet, they are required to make regular visits to a hospital for follow-up, day surgery or occupational therapy. How are they going to afford the transport cost?
On top of that, MOM wants them to show up at the ministry to renew their Special Passes at regular intervals, varying from weekly to monthly. It’s also an opportunity for MOM officers to review their case progress. Do they have to walk there in the sun each time? How is this man with a smashed foot (at left) going to do that, for example?
In theory, their ex-employers are still responsible for their “upkeep”, but because enforcement by the MOM is rare, few men see any money from this source.
In the meantime, the problem is urgent. The injured need to get to the hospital and they shouldn’t be doing it in a way that makes their injury worse.
EZ-Link Card Top-Up Scheme
Transient Workers Count Too has now implemented a scheme to top up deserving men’s EZ-Link cards. Run by volunteer Jill Ratnam – she’s the lady in the top picture – it works like this:
- If an injured worker has a hospital appointment in the coming week, and
- if he has little or no value left in his EZ-Link card, and
- has not had a top-up from TWC2 recently,
he can approach Jill to exchange his exhausted or nearly-exhausted EZ-Link card for one containing $20 of value.
Once a week, Jill takes her stock of exhausted cards to an MRT station and tops up each one with $20, thereby getting them ready for exchange the following evening she is at the soup kitchen.
It’s a simple process to ensure that those who need it most get targetted help. Jill also keeps a record of who she has exchanged cards with, to ensure that a man does not return for another exchange until several hospital appointments later.
We would like to appeal to well-wishers to make a donation to help us sustain this scheme. It’s of urgent benefit to men who might otherwise be in pain every step of the way to a hospital. A $100 donation would help five men make several hospital visits each. A $200 donation would help ten men.
To help, click HELP WITH YOUR DONATION from the bottom menu bar of this page.