By Tan Shi Zhen, Strategic Communications & Engagement Intern at HealthServe
In the heart of Geylang lies a community clinic that has kept its doors open over the years to care for ill migrant workers who lacked access to affordable healthcare.
And within the compassionate walls of this clinic stands one lady – the driving force behind HealthServe’s tireless operation.
Meet Aubrey, HealthServe’s senior clinic manager who runs a lean team of medical and non-medical volunteers and interns every clinic session, sometimes late into the night.
Why she left her accounting job behind
Hailing from the Philippines, Aubrey first came to Singapore in 2012 as she was offered an accounting job opportunity. Equipped with a second degree in nursing and a desire to put her nursing skills to good use, she searched for relevant volunteering opportunities. After hearing about HealthServe from a friend, Aubrey decided to take the plunge and signed up for her first orientation session as a volunteer.
Witnessing the untold stories of the migrant community in Singapore cemented Aubrey’s decision to continue volunteering at HealthServe, even as she was adjusting to a new working life here. “At that time, HealthServe was just a small medical clinic with a team of less than 10 people,” she recounts.
As a volunteer at the clinic, Aubrey took on many different roles across sessions, from cashiering and dispensing medication to befriending – her favourite duty. As a befriender, she could form deeper connections with the migrant brothers through small conversations – she explained to me.
They would talk about anything under the sun – from their families to their struggles being so far away from home. As a migrant worker herself, Aubrey shared that she could resonate with some of these challenges, such as missing her comfort food from home, especially on days when she felt homesick.
Reminiscing about her days as a volunteer, she shared that “our clinic used to be open on Saturdays, which meant that I would have to leave my family commitments early. At times, this would make me ponder about why I was doing this. However, every volunteering session would remind me of my purpose. Spending my Saturdays with the underserved migrant community keeps me grounded and reminds me of how privileged I am.”
A Leap of Faith
After volunteering for four years, Aubrey made the decision to leave her accounting job to join HealthServe as a clinic manager. Her decision was often met with confusion. Has she ever had regrets, I couldn’t help but ask.
In response, she echoes the popular saying with a smile, “love your job and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
What sets HealthServe apart from other clinics
When asked about her most rewarding moments over the years, Aubrey detailed the times many migrant brothers had shared with her how they enjoyed coming to the HealthServe clinic, because they weren’t just viewed as patients, but as friends.
“Our doctors, interns and volunteers are always willing to lend a listening ear, making the brothers feel like they are more than just a patient. I think that’s a significant reason why they continue coming here even though the latest Primary Care Plan* (PCP) covers their primary care needs at subsidised rates.”
She went on to explain a new challenge she’s had to deal with since the PCP was rolled out in 2022 – turning away migrant workers, including many who had travelled from a distance to visit us, as they were already covered by the PCP.
“It pains me to have to turn away these brothers. However, it is necessary to allow us to prioritise our resources to support those who fall through the cracks, and address other unmet healthcare needs in the migrant community such as dental and mental health.”
And her one wish for HealthServe?
*The Primary Care Plan (PCP), a move that HealthServe has championed for years, was rolled out by Singapore’s government in 2022. From 1 April 2022, employers were mandated to purchase a PCP for workers, especially those living in dormitories. The PCP covers all medical examinations, acute and chronic medical treatments and health screenings for a co-payment of $5 each visit.