By De Sheng Poh
“So many pain, so many blood.” remarked Juyel as he recounted his harrowing experience immediately following a serious injury sustained in the line of work.
Earning an average of $1,200 a month, Md Juyel Hossain Md Abdul Hai, a Bangladeshi national, is the sole breadwinner of his extended family, which consists of his parents, two brothers, one sister, grandmother and two nieces. On top of living expenses, he has to pay for the tuition fees of his brother and sister, who are pursuing university degrees. Unsurprisingly, when asked if he has any plans to marry, Juyel, who is single, shook his head. “I no married now, because I need so many money”
In early January 2016, around 4pm, Juyel had been renovating a room with a few co-workers. However, an improperly installed false floor caused Juyel to lose his balance and fall resulting in his left hand sustaining a deep cut as he attempted to break his fall.
His co-workers at the scene called their supervisor, who was not present, informing him of the accident and Juyel’s injury. Instructions were given to the company driver to take Juyel from the worksite in the Marina Bay area to Tekka medical centre rather than the nearest hospital.
Perhaps if the supervisor had seen the severity of Juyel’s injury, his decision might have been different. The makeshift bandages Juyel had wrapped around his cut did little to stem the flow of blood, which soon covered the floor of the lorry he was being ferried around in.
To make matters worse, upon reaching Tekka medical centre the attending doctor, being a general practitioner, was not prepared to deal with the deep and heavily bleeding cut. Juyel was turned away. “Doctor no admit me,” said Juyel.
A second call was thus made to the supervisor, who at this point must have had some idea of how serious the injury was. However, he again instructed the driver to take Juyel to another shophouse clinic in the Little India area, where he was similarly refused admission by the attending GP.
Now a third call was made to the supervisor, who finally gave the green light for Juyel to be sent to Mount Alvernia Hospital. By this time, several hours had passed since the injury occurred, and it was nearing nightfall.
However, the concession to allow Juyel to visit Mount Alvernia came with a caveat – he was instructed not to take more than two days’ medical leave (MC) under any circumstances. “The supervisor call me directly,” said Juyel, “and he say, ‘If your doctor give MC, you say take two days MC, more cannot.’ ”
Upon arrival at Mount Alvernia, it was determined that Juyel’s injury required surgery. However, Juyel’s injury was not operated upon immediately. Instead, his wound was dressed again with cleaner materials and he was transferred to a medical centre in Novena, where his surgery was scheduled for the following day.
In short, as he was bleeding out after sustaining a grievous injury, Juyel was ferried in a lorry to no less than three different locations over the course of a few hours before he received the level of care he needed.
Commenting on Juyel’s experiences, a senior TWC2 volunteer suggested that the supervisor’s insistence on having Juyel see a GP rather than go straight to a hospital was likely an attempt to keep costs down. Further, the attempt to limit the medical leave Juyel received is typical of many cases that TWC2 has seen, where an employer tries to avoid having to report a worksite incident to the authorities. Under the law, if a worker suffers an injury that necessitates more than three days of medical leave, the incident must be reported to the work safety authorities.
The company, said the senior volunteer, was prioritising its own interest far above the interest of the employee — which would be to receive immediate medical care of the standard called for by the severity of the injury.
And the injury was severe: Juyel tells me that despite the operation, he now has no sensation in the thumb, middle and ring fingers of his injured hand. Nerves were probably severed. He is unable to resume work.
Dissatisfied with the care he received, as well as insufficient medical leave, Juyel checked himself into Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), where he was warded and given seven days’ MC. Perhaps because these additional days of medical leave now made it mandatory for the company to report the incident to the authorities, it caused a rift between him and his employer. The ill-will made it hard for him to continuing staying in the company accommodation. “So many pressure me to come out” said Juyel, speaking of his eventual decision to quit the company’s quarters.
While throughout this saga Juyel continued and still continues to be paid, the discord eventually led Juyel to move out of the ‘dormitory’. Housing upwards of ten workers, it is actually a single bungalow that also serves as the company office and material store. Staying out on his own means he has to pay for his own accommodation from this point on. And thus begins a long, costly wait for case resolution.