An employer is seeking assistance in medical bills for the family’s domestic helper after she jumped from the fourth floor of the maid agency’s dormitory, following a failed attempt in self-harm by stabbing herself and banging her head against metal gate.
The helper from Myanmar, known as May Thu has survived after gone through multiple surgeries, but her employer has to now bear the hospital bill which is at more than S$80,000 and counting, coupled with additional daily charges.
The employer’s son, Goh Meng Huang took to his Facebook page on Wednesday (26 Aug) to describe the whole incident while appealing for public donations to ease their burden of hefty hospital bills.
According to Mr Goh, May Thu has been working as a foreign domestic helper in Singapore for two years since December 2017, and had her contract renewed in December last year.
She was planned to return to Myanmar for her three-months home leave in May, but was unable to return as intended because the flight was suspended due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Initially, May Thu was confused as why she was unable to return to Myanmar. We approached her agent multiple times since early May 2020 to speak with her, which he counselled her that it was not within our control and hoped that she can remain patient until the airport is opened,” Mr Goh said.
He added that they also sent email to the Myanmar Embassy in Singapore to apply for “relief” flight For May Thu, but “sadly, we did not receive a reply since then”.
He went on to describe that one week before the day of incident, May Thu has requested to rest as her knees hurt.
Although the employer had brought her to seek for general practitioner, but she then complained the medication did not help after taking medication for one day and insisted to rest.
“We acceded to her request to rest and made arrangements with the maid agency for her to rest at their dormitory for a week from 10 August 2020 to 16 August 2020,” Mr Goh said.
However, on 16 Aug at about 10am, Mr Goh was told by the agent that “he was informed by the police that May Thu had jumped from the fourth floor of the maid agency’s dormitory.”
Mr Goh said, “According to the police, she tried to ‘stab herself, bang her head against the metal gate and eventually leaped off the 4th floor common corridor of her block’.
“We are saddened and dumbfounded. It is most likely the case that May Thu has become depressed. We cannot imagine how heart wrenching it was for her to have to wait months after months, only to be met with a postponement one after another.”
Describing the follow-up situation, Mr Goh said that the maid agency “has denied any fiscal responsibility”.
“Although May Thu leaped off from the agency’s dormitories, this is expected as May Thu is still our employee and we are her employer. Morality is another issue,” he wrote on his post.
As Myanmar Embassy has uploaded a passenger waiting list for relief flight, Mr Goh noted that May Thu has been placed at 310th on the list, and is expected to return to Myanmar in late September.
“We suspect that May Thu will likely to be placed on a relief flight in late September. However, given that she is now bedridden, we are unsure if she will able to board the flight,” he asserted.
Speaking about the hospital bill, Mr Goh mentioned that the current bill “stands at more than $80,000” and “is expected to keep growing” as the hospital currently is unable to provide an estimation of May Thu’s discharge date.
He continued, “My parents are both hawkers, selling yong tau foo. My brother is an office worker. I, myself, am a student. We do not have the ability to pay for this bill. We might need to hold back on some of the subsequent surgeries as we did not expect a bill of this size.”
Hence, he hoped that the member of public could help alleviate his family’s financial burden by donating via GoGetFunding website.
Responding to the media report that they have received insurance payout of $15,000, Mr Goh also clarified that “no money has been paid out”, given that “self-injury or harm whether sane or insane” are not covered under the policy, so the insurance company is unable to compensate any amount as per their fine print.
CDE urges employers to be more understanding toward their FWDs and communicate with them
On Tuesday (25 Aug), Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) said on its Facebook page that it will not “speculate on the reasons that may have caused the foreign domestic worker (FDW) to jump off from the fourth floor” while the investigation is still ongoing.
“However, we are deeply concerned by this incident. CDE would like to urge our FDW friends not to do anything rash and put themselves in life-threatening situations.
“Remember your family is waiting for you back home. Should FDWs or employers need any advice or assistance in mediation, please reach out to CDE at our 24-hour helpline 1800 2255 233,” it said.
From their ground interactions with FDWs, CDA said it noted some of the FDWs experience stress at work, as well as worry about losing jobs in Singapore and their family members amid COVID-19 pandemic.
CDA therefore urged the employers to be “more understanding towards their FDWs”, and “communicate with them to find out how they are coping with work, as well as discuss any concerns together”.
Not only this, employers are also encouraged to share news article related about COVID-19 situation with the FDWs to keep them informed while ensuring that FDWs gets sufficient rest daily, time to exercise, and having proper nutrition.
If the employment relationships are not working out despite the best efforts of both parties, CDA said the employer should consider returning the FDW to the employment agency, instead of just terminating the work permit and repatriating them.
“This will assure the FDW that she has a chance in continuing to earn for her family and lessen her anxiety,” CDA added.
It continued, “Similarly, employment agencies can also share updated information about the current COVID-19 situation and flight restrictions (if any) to the FDWs.
“Everyone plays a part in supporting our FDWs to overcome this challenging period.”