Sunday, December 12, 2010

UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO THE CATHOLIC NEWS- Expedite support for our marginalised citizens to save & reclaim more lives

I refer to the report in the Catholic News , “Unmet social needs” (CN, Dec 5).

I fully agree that there is a dire need to facilitate support and compassion of Singapore's marginalised citizens who include the mentally ill and the disabled wh...o do not have a sense of belonging in a society that is bent on economic excellence.

For years, I have been trying to secure some home-help services as the strain of caring for my wife who suffers from schizophrenia and depression for more than three decades is taking a heavy toll on me, and I'm exhausted!

The recent case of the 12-year-old disabled girl, Little Linda who had a low IQ and perished in a most cruel way broke my heart. Her parents and maid found it so hard to cope for it is never easy taking care of someone with such a condition. One life has been lost and another hangs in the balance as the maid could be charged with her the child's death.

Many caregivers who are taking care of their marginalised loved ones are also suffering burn out. Yet, securing support for us is a daunting task and fruitless exercise.

Recently, through the Centre for Enabled Living (CEL), a senior staff from a nursing home was asked to visit us to assist with some of our needs that includes meal delivery service, transportation for my wife's several medical appointments and cleaning services.

After going through the mandatory means testing, I was told I would have to pay the following charges:

$70 each time I had to ferry my wife to and fro the respective Government hospitals -Tan Tock Seng Hospital for medical arthritis treatment, and IMH for her lifelong psychiatric care.

$70 for cleaners to clean up my house for a duration of 40 minutes

A two-way trip to Tan Tock Seng Hospital would cost less than $20 and the market rate for cleaning service for 1 hour would only cost $10 - $15 per hour. So, how does this compare to the overcharging by the nursing home? And I don't have a fulltime job.

The staff at the nursing home who was far from sympathetic, told me that the home depended on donations to run its services and the guidelines are drawn up by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Does this mean that just because I have a little CPF savings that they must squeeze every cent from faithful and dedicated caregivers like myself. You work all your life to enjoy your retirement, but in the end, almost half your money goes back to the Government through rising medical bills and such overcharging.

It is little wonder that many caregivers give up on walking the whole journey with their stricken ones because there is little compassion for our marginalised citizens. This is why it is crucial for our Catholic organisations to render us the support that we so badly need.

The formation of CLARITY to support persons with mental illness and their caregivers is taking far too long to carry out its work. So, I appeal to CARITAS - give us your support, your assistance quickly so that more lives can be saved and reclaimed.

And as the yuletide season draws close, bear in mind that the mentally ill are also God's children. Give your unconditional love and support to or marginalised brothers and sisters for that is the true meaning of Christmas.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Singapore 560601

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