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Activist alarmed that workers in dorms have difficulty getting medical attention

Many workers haven't heard of a FAST team. Some don't even know who is managing their dorms at the moment, and they feel helpless when they have a problem,” said Kokila Annamalai

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Singapore—Migrants’ rights activist Kokila Annamalai has taken to social media once again to shine the light on the problems foreign workers currently locked down in dormitories face, particularly that of having a hard time getting medical care when they need it.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Sunday night (May 17) she outlined the issues that these workers are facing.

First she wrote about the workers who are finding it difficult to get medications they need “for new and chronic issues, including in emergencies such as blood pressure spikes.” These workers, who live either in dorms or community facilities, are not allowed to go out to get the medicines they need, nor are these distributed to them.

She wrote of one worker who had asked for hypertension medicines for three weeks in three facilities before he received them.

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Another issue she brought up is that the communication channels from migrant workers to those who are in a position to help them when they are need it are “highly insufficient.” 

“Workers don’t have direct access to FAST teams,” she wrote, and so a worker in need reaches out to NGOs or activists for help, who then alert the MWC, which then tells the FAST teams, a process she finds to be “a very roundabout way of getting help, and it isn’t always effective because it’s like a game of Chinese whispers.”

A migrant worker who was experiencing health issues waited a long time for the Forward Assurance and Support Teams (FAST) and resorted to contacting a doctor online for help. Some volunteers were able to intercede on the man’s behalf and got him the medical help he needed, and the man is now in the ICU. Ms Annamalai wrote, “If he had had his BP medication in time, would this have happened?”

“I worry most about workers who aren’t connected to any NGO networks, and what happens when they get ill and are denied care by those responsible. Workers are not just at risk of contracting Covid, but also to not having their other health issues addressed in a timely manner. Many workers haven’t heard of a FAST team. Some don’t even know who is managing their dorms at the moment, and they feel helpless when they have a problem,” she added.

UPDATE: Persistent gaps in communication and medical care for quarantined migrant workers1) Workers in dorms and…

Posted by Kokila Annamalai on Sunday, 17 May 2020

She also wrote about the problems workers have when they are moved form one place to another without being told why, which they find demoralizing and wonder why they are not at least told the reasons why they’re moved around. “They just wish someone would tell them what’s going on. Living in such precarity is stressful enough without these unpredictable changes happening regularly without explanation.”

She added that doctors have said that they’ve seen patients among the migrant worker community who are panicking due to a lack of information as to what’s going on in their situation. And it has been especially difficult for patients to not know the results of their Covid-19 tests.

Overall, it has been a stressful time for the workers, and for some it has taken a toll on their mental health. But as the activist writes, “A significant amount of anxiety, panic, stress and despair can be addressed through ensuring that workers have access to information and medical care, and are able to communicate their problems/feedback properly and get assistance where needed.”

Workers should not be suddenly transferred accommodations or never be given their test results as “these are sure to make workers feel demoralised, anxious and utterly disempowered.”

She added, “And being turned away when you’re experiencing distressing physical symptoms and need medication urgently is unconscionable. It’s hard not to wonder if any of the deaths so far that were not attributed to Covid-19, could have been caused by a delay in a worker getting the medical care he needed for a chronic condition.” —/TISG

Read related: Activists: Could deaths of 5 infected migrant workers be reclassified?

Activists: Could deaths of 5 infected migrant workers be reclassified?

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