WHAT WE DO
HealthServe’s programmes are run by a small team of dedicated staff and supported by a wide network of professional volunteers, educational institutions, corporations and community organisations.
Healthcare is the heartbeat of HealthServe. Each year, thousands of migrant workers walk through our clinic doors. Our community medical and dental clinic located in Geylang.
Our clinics offer subsidized health services to migrant workers with inadequate health assistance. We charge a flat fee of $8 at our GP clinics and $15 for dental services for both consultation and medication. However, fees are waived for migrant workers who are Special Pass holders or those who have been referred by other partner NGOs.
On top of providing low wage migrant workers access to affordable medical and dental care, we also offer bi-weekly specialist orthopaedic, dermatology and rehabilitation consultations in occupational therapy, physiotherapy, chronic disease management and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
“I was very upset,” recalls Rona, a shipyard worker from Bangladesh, when he had to choose between paying for dental treatment and sending money back home to his family in April 2020. He had visited a private dentist before the dormitories went into lockdown. The treatment for his toothache would cost $200-$300, a huge chunk of his monthly pay.
His employer was not willing to help as he was a Special Pass holder and was not working. Faced with the difficult decisions between easing his pain and sending money home to his family, Rona decided to forgo treatment. His pain worsened as he was moved around to different facilities after being diagnosed with Covid-19. Unable to swallow or eat properly, Rona couldn’t sleep at night and recalls feeling extremely helpless and alone.
After recovering from Covid-19 in August, he was moved to a cruise ship where we met him and heard about his dental problem. Soon after, our volunteer dentist extracted his tooth and filled in his dental cavity. Rona is grateful to have received free dental treatment at HealthServe, for “if not, I [will have to] continue [being in] pain, everyday cry then sleep,” he shares.
Casework & Social Services
HealthServe provides casework support to migrant workers with work injury claims and legal, criminal or employment-related issues. Each year, we assist on hundreds of cases.
Our caseworkers follow up on each case closely, even accompanying workers to the hospital for their checkups and medical assessments. With the help of the Ministry of Manpower, hospitals, pro bono lawyers and other community organisations, we are working towards creating a Singapore where everyone is treated fairly.
For many workers, the waiting period for work injury compensation or dispute resolution may last several months to more than a year. During this period, workers on Special Passes are not allowed to work and receive no income.
It can be difficult for them to afford daily necessities such as food and lodging. To meet these needs, HealthServe offers a variety of social assistance programmes to these unemployed migrant workers, including free meals, subsidised transport and an emergency fund.
Outreach & Engagement
We aim to build a community where migrant workers feel accepted and supported. We partner with community organizations, corporations, and churches to host community events for our migrant workers. From outings to a fun and meaningful celebration of Father’s Day or festivals such as Deepavali, these events never fail to put a smile on the workers’ faces.
We also continue to reach out to migrant workers in their dormitories to befriend them, provide essential goods and inform them of their rights and the resources available to them.
Seven years into his second job in Singapore in 2018, Dipu, a construction worker from Bangladesh, became entangled in a police investigation. His then employer had lodged a report against him and other workers for mishandling money, which he claimed was unwarranted. His employer had also owed him two months of wages.
Following the police report, he was not able to work for two years. As his case is unresolved, he has also not been able to go home to see his parents and young daughter. The Covid-19 pandemic only added to his woes and uncertainty.
He was introduced to HealthServe by a friend in July 2020. We assisted him with rent payments and provided him with phone top-ups, an EZ-link card and cash for daily necessities. In addition, we covered the costs for the renewal of his passport so that he could have a valid passport for a new work pass application. In October 2020, Dipu found a job and now has approval to work under a Temporary Job Scheme.
Mental Health & Counselling Services
Leveraging HealthServe’s medical expertise, our multi-level mental health program was launched in 2019 and is the first-of-its-kind in Singapore, aimed at supporting the mental and emotional well-being of the migrant community.
Providing a full range of services from large group psychoeducation workshops to individual counselling sessions with native-speaking qualified counsellors, HealthServe’s Mental Health & Counselling Services (MHCS) works towards addressing, strengthening and empowering the mental wellbeing of migrant workers. We work together with government agencies, hospitals, industry associations and dormitories to provide holistic care for the migrant community.
HealthServe provides an extensive range of mental health services through 3 pillars:
Education and Awareness
HealthServe looks at addressing and increasing the awareness of migrant workers’ mental health with various stakeholders through education.
We offer mass psychoeducation sessions conducted in the native language of migrant workers at their worksites, as well as formal skills workshops for employers, supervisors and managers.
Our materials and training are contextualized based on today’s work environment, whilst ensuring appropriateness and respect to the various nationalities and cultures of the migrant workers.
To address workers’ mental health issues and provide support in their native languages, we currently operate a mental health hotline (3137-4460) during office hours, where stakeholders and migrant workers may leave their name and number and a native speaker would call back to provide assistance.
We hope to increase accessibility and extend our channels of help to distressed migrant workers by working towards a 24/7 crisis response hotline. Launching at the end of 2021, this hotline will be manned by native-speaking Care Persons to support distressed migrant workers needing immediate support.
Caring for the community
HealthServe’s team of native-speaking qualified counsellors have been supporting referrals from ministries, employers and healthcare facilities. They have been working in collaboration with external and internal parties to provide psycho-emotional support to migrant workers.
When needed, our team of psychiatrists facilitate psychological group debrief sessions and provide their medical expertise in the assessments and support of migrant workers in severe distress.
We recognise the need for community support for migrant workers who have completed interventions at medical institutions. Together with migrant workers and stakeholders, we work towards their smooth reintegration into their workplaces and communities.
Shortly after arriving in Singapore to work in the waste management sector in July 2019, Jiang, a migrant worker from China, sustained a serious injury after falling from the back of a moving vehicle. He injured his skull and underwent surgery. He is now hard of hearing in his left ear and in need of a crutch to move around.
Left largely alone in his dormitory in the weeks after his accident, Jiang fell into a deep depression and was plagued with constant thoughts of suicide. His inability to work dealt a huge blow to his family’s finances.
He sought our assistance after hearing about HealthServe from a fellow worker. We supported him with financial assistance and free meals. We also engaged him in wellness activities and events, where he could befriend other migrant workers and the HealthServe team. We saw a tremendous improvement in his mental health and outlook during his time with us. He subsequently received injury compensation and left Singapore in a much happier state in August 2020.
Education, Research & Advocacy
Education, research and advocacy help us to support our migrants better through raising awareness and increasing understanding of the problems and issues they face. Our research informs our advocacy efforts. We welcome academics, researchers, and students to conduct research projects in collaboration with HealthServe.
HealthServe hosts a number of interns from schools in Singapore and abroad. We also run a selective course through NUS Yong Lin Loo School of Medicine.
Research Papers, Publications, and Resources:
- “Six Weeks at HealthServe” by Sarah Tan Yingli & Kai Yuan Tey (2018). This report was published in Vector, the Australian Medical Students’ Association’s official global health journal.
- “Healthcare-seeking behaviour, barriers and mental health of non-domestic migrant workers in Singapore” by Jia Wei Ang, Colin Chia, Calvin J Koh, Brandon W B Chua, Shyamala Narayanaswamy, Limin Wijaya, Lai Gwen Chan, Wei Leong Goh, Shawn Vasoo (2017)
- “健康是本钱: health is my capital: a qualitative study of access to healthcare by Chinese migrants in Singapore” by Wai Jia Tam, Wei Leong Goh, Jeffrey Chua and Helena Legido-Quigley (2017)
- “Practical Advice for Doctors Treating Foreign Workers” by Dr Joanna Chan and Dr Dennis Chia (2017)
- “Food Insecurity and Health of Bangladeshi Workers in Singapore: A Culture-Centered Study” by Mohan J. Dutta (2015)
- “Risky Business: Death & Injury on Singapore’s Construction Sites” by Stephanie Chok (2014)
- “Health-Seeking Behaviour of Male Foreign Migrant Workers Living in a Dormitory in Singapore” by Weixian Lee et al (2014)
- “Healthcare Seeking Behavior of Migrant Workers in Singapore” by Ashvin S/O Vardza Raju et al (2013)
- “Trading off Health for Wealth: Assessing the Health and Vulnerability of Low Wage Foreign Workers to HIV/STD Infection in Singapore” by Peter Hsu and Ranajit Dastidar (2009)
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