Contributed by RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO –
Ease Financial Burden of Caregivers of the Mentally Ill
Straits Times reader Tan Buck Yam wrote to the Forum Page on Tuesday 6th January 2015 telling of how he was asked to pay a hefty bill of $550 for an ambulance to bring his wife to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) at 9am on December last year.
It is outrageous that this caregiver Tan Buck Yam was charged $550 for the ambulance service to bring his wife who suffered a relapse of her schizophrenia to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) (“Private ambulance: OK to charge extra”; Tuesday, The Straits Times).
Caregivers saddled with financial burdens
Taking care of a loved one suffering from a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia is a very difficult task and caregivers are often saddled with financial burdens – in terms of medications, hospitalisation and in this case, hefty ambulances services.
Moreover when the patient relapses, they can become unmanageable and place family members under tremendous stress. Mr Tan’s daughter was going through anxiety as the ambulance officers from the operator Abella agency demanded that the family pay $550 instead of $450 which was the quoted price offered to Mr Tan on the phone.
Instead of showing more care and compassion, why is it that such hefty charges are thrust onto the already burnt out caregiver? Is the Ministry of Health (MOH) aware of such unfair practices?
This issue of hefty ambulance charges has been raised a few times with some readers writing to the press and with the matter being raised at a public forum organised by CLUB HEAL, a Muslim voluntary welfare organisation two years ago year where two Members of Parliament – Zaqy Mohamad and Associate Proffesor Mohamed Faishal Ibrahim heard the cries of caregivers who were also over charged on the same matter. I was present at the forum. Until today, this issue has not been resolved.
What is the point of giving constructive feedback to the Government when no action is taken?
I just don’t understand why the MOH cannot provide such an ambulance services for IMH and help make life easier for caregivers of the mentally ill.
If purchasing an ambulance proves costly, then surely charitable organisations like those from the Foundations or the National Council of Social Services can be approached to donate an ambulance, with the hiring of drivers by IMH.
IMH has a mobile crisis team in place 24/7, but why is it that help cannot be readily available when a crisis takes place in a home where family members are at a loss of what to do in a tense situation?
It is a crying shame that caregivers of the mentally ill are not getting the structural support which they so badly need from IMH – an issue that I have raised repeatedly.
By Raymond Anthony Fernando
Raymond Anthony Fernando is an advocate for the mentally ill. He volunteers with the Singapore Association for Mental Health, Silver Ribbon Singapore, CLUB HEAL and the Institute of Mental Health. He is Model Caregiver 2007 and Mental Health Champion 2010. Raymond attributes his success to his beloved wife, Doris, who has always been his greatest inspiration.
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