Persistent gaps in communication and medical care for quarantined migrant workers

UPDATE: Persistent gaps in communication and medical care for quarantined migrant workers

1) Workers in dorms and community recovery facilities continue to face difficulty in getting access to crucial medication/medical care for new and chronic issues, including in emergencies such as blood pressure spikes. Accounts include workers being told by dorm security that they are not allowed to go outside to get medication, while not being provided with alternative avenues to get the medication they need. One worker had been asking for BP medication for three weeks, at three different facilities he had been moved to, before we finally managed to contact someone who could get him the attention he needed.

2) My concern is that the current channels workers have access to for help are highly insufficient. From my experience/understanding, how it works now is that workers’ main point of contact for information/support/etc remain dorm management/security. Workers don’t have direct access to FAST teams. In the case that dorm management or security is unsupportive, workers who are connected to activists or NGOs contact them and share their problems, which are then forwarded to MWC, who in turn contact the FAST teams for assistance. This is a very roundabout way of getting help, and it isn’t always effective because it’s like a game of Chinese whispers. The parties involved don’t always have all the information, and sometimes it gets overlooked or regarded as unimportant. One of the workers we were in contact with, who couldn’t get medication in time, experienced profuse sweating and needed to get to a hospital asap. Even after we managed to contact the FAST team, they didn’t show and the worker turned to an online doctor. He did eventually get to a hospital after some volunteers rallied around trying to get help and advocating on his behalf to those in charge, but there was a significant lag. He is now in the ICU. 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.

3) There are workers who have been moved from room to room, level to level, in their dorms, without explanations as to why this is happening. Some of the workers surmised that it might be due to cleaning activities that are being undertaken level by level, but they have not been provided any explanation from dorm management for these actions. They also don’t know when they will next be moved. Workers say the lack of information, and uncertainty around when they will be moved, is demoralising. They ask why no one bothers to explain things to them.

4) There are also accounts of how, when workers are removed from a room to be quarantined/hospitalised, their roommates expect that the rest of them will have more space to practice distancing in the room, but other workers were moved in. No explanations were provided, and these are workers they do not know, from other companies. Again, workers speculate whether this is so that some rooms can be turned into isolation areas, and 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.

5) Some workers report how there are numerous empty rooms in their dorm as a result of some employers relocating their workers early on, and wonder why they aren’t allowed to take advantage of that and space out. If there are reasons for this, they just want an opportunity to understand.

6) Some doctors have shared how it is not practical to use the translation portals that volunteers have set up within the dorms. These websites are helpful in the hospital setting, where they have more time to interact with their patients, but in the dorms, medical teams are only around for a couple of hours in the morning and evening, and the set-up (medical posts are in places like the dorm canteen), PPE and rushed circumstances means they have to rely on simple English, and have encounters where workers aren’t able to tell them what they’re experiencing and they’re not able to reassure them/provide guidance either.

7) There are no translators in hospitals or dorms, to my knowledge.

8) Doctors have also reported, including in some media articles, that they meet many workers at the hospital who are in a panic because no one has told them what is happening, and why they are there. When workers are moved out of their dorms, they are frequently not informed why, or where they are going.

9) It is also unclear to workers what symptoms/conditions will qualify them to be taken to hospital. For example, some workers above 50 have been moved out of dorms so doctors can keep a closer eye on them in healthcare settings, but the workers are confused about whether they have tested positive for Covid-19 and that’s why they’ve been moved out. Others who have high fever think they will be taken to the hospital, but this isn’t the protocol. But since no one has communicated the protocol to them, they worry because they think they have been forgotten/they aren’t getting the care they need.

10) This has already been widely reported, and I mentioned it in a previous update too, but workers are, still, often not informed of their Covid-19 test results, which is utterly unacceptable and leads to a lot of anxiety.

There has been a lot of concern and discussion about workers’ mental health in this period, and rightfully so. 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. Being asked to pack up and move immediately without knowing why, or being herded into a van without being told where you’re going, or waking up to new roommates, or waiting around after a Covid test only to never hear back – these are sure to make workers feel demoralised, anxious and utterly disempowered. 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.

The above information is to the best of my knowledge, and verified to the best of my ability. As always, I will make corrections if anyone alerts me to any inaccuracies, and I will post such corrections as updates, so there is clarity around the error(s).


* Facebook post by Kokila Annamalai.




6 Responses to “Persistent gaps in communication and medical care for quarantined migrant workers”

  • trublu:

    In COVID BUDGETS, older sgs receive only $600 especially jobless n retirees while still paying GST ON BASICS LIKE MEDICARE.

    Meanwhile,QUARANTINED FWs happily receive wages from TAXPAYER/RESERVES money while CONtractors dian diam?
    When CONtractors screw their workers n make bigly money,GOT SHARE WITH sgs or not?

    In name BUDGETS TO ASSIST sgs like you n me; in truth,Bullcrap$$$!

    That way it helps me more.

    GD Star Rating
  • Uselesspap:

    Army medic cannot plan ?
    No plans to be submitted to anyone ?
    No one including our so “CALLED” TALENTED MP’S,
    first line, first instance , are provided ?

    Wow, case scenerio is, “CONFUSION” ” DELUSION” ” SUBJUCATION” ???


    HAHAHA PAP ???


    GD Star Rating
  • JialaT JT:

    In her answer, Minister Teo said this,

    I have not come across one single migrant worker himself that has demanded an apology.


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  • ugly record fo our history bks:

    what else can go wrong?
    its like they ran to lock the barn door only after the horses had bolted.

    GD Star Rating
  • Initial hiccup:

    Initial hiccup is to be expected for such an emergency situation at the FW Dormitories…
    Hope it is resolve already…
    Anyway the spread at the FW Dormitories is high and we need to understand how the Virus spread there to prevent future outbreaks.
    Expensive lesson for Singapore.Our reputation is hit too.

    GD Star Rating
  • Soccerbetting2:

    Source from “Today/Sgnews” website :Quote – ” ‘So what?’: Man who posted about dinner gathering during circuit breaker fined S$4,500

    Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY
    Francis Soh Seng Chye arriving at the State Courts on May 20, 2020.
    Published20 MAY, 2020

    Stay woke: 

    SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old man who spent an hour at his cousin-in-law’s Circuit Road flat having dinner, while circuit breaker measures were in force, was fined S$4,500 on Wednesday (May 20)….

    Francis Soh Seng Chye is the first individual to be dealt with under Regulation 6 of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020, which bans social gatherings during this period.

    He committed the offence on April 8, one day after the circuit breaker period kicked in.

    The court heard that Soh met his cousin-in-law, Ms Lye Bao Ru, at her flat that evening to hand over the keys to the car they shared. Both Soh and Ms Lye are part-time private-hire drivers.

    There, Ms Lye invited him to dinner at her place. The gathering lasted for about an hour and there were seven people attending it, including Soh and Ms Lye’s two children.

    Read also: Four fined, jailed for breaching stay-home notices or quarantine orders

    During the dinner, Soh took pictures and posted them on Facebook with the caption: “After a long long long long super long day… we are having (an) illegal gathering… so what? Enjoy the food to the max.”

    When his friends saw the post, they asked why he was still at a gathering during the circuit breaker period. 

    One of them subsequently sent the post to media outlet Stomp, and other media platforms picked up on it afterwards.
    Read more at…. “Unquote.

    Response : $4500 fine so huge for such a minor offence ? The court is robbing people fined money! Ms Lye invited him to dinner at her place. And there were seven people attending it. And why didn’t the public prosecutor charge all the people instead of just one only? And when Ms Ms Lye Bao Ru invite him, no need to charge Ms Lye Bao Ru, why? Woman violate the law control by Kasisviswanathan Shanmugam got special right and no need to be charge?

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