When a frustrated caregiver of a sibling with special needs took to Facebook to share her experience dealing with the process of a Quarantine Order (QO) from the Ministry of Health, redditors were quick to highlight the gaps in Singapore’s systems, specifically the lack of empathy.
On Monday (7 June), Ms Amylia Koh detailed in a post what she and her brother—who was identified as part of the [email protected], Training & Development Centre COVID-19 cluster—went through due to the “utter lack of awareness” of the Ministry of Health (MOH) officers and front liners on how to handle persons with intellectual disability.
Ms Koh wrote, “The utter lack of awareness of the profiles of the clients of MINDSville was shocking and disappointing.”
She went on to say, “Despite the many campaigns and programmes run by various government-led organizations for inclusivity, to celebrate and help special needs persons, to educate members of the public about special ”needs folks and persons with disabilities, it seems that the most urgent need for education would be right in the MOH backyard.”
Ms Koh wrote about the gaps in communication which led to confusion about her being able to care for her brother during his stay at a government quarantine facility and about where her brother would serve out his quarantine order after he had been admitted at Changi General Hospital.
She also detailed the “horrifying” swabbing experience when she was not initially allowed to be with her brother during the process despite being his caregiver and the person most equipped person to handle him and his needs.
In her post, Ms Koh outlined several suggestions for MOH to improve its approach when it comes to managing patients with special needs, stressing that it is “imperative” to do so given the expectation for more clusters within institutions like MINDSville in the future.
She suggested they engage specially-trained professionals to assist front liners in managing people with special needs. She also suggested using symbolic visuals, real-life picture visuals, or social stories to help people with special needs better understand what they will be going through.
She also suggested using non-invasive and non-traumatic testing methods and ensuring that the information of the families of special needs persons sent to the respective departments is consistent.
Ms Koh’s story has made headlines since it went viral early this week and has garnered some attention from netizens on reddit r/Singapore who feel that the entire incident highlights gaps in the system.
A couple of people noted how this highlights the problem of the culture of people just going exactly as they are supposed to and only strictly following rules and procedures.
One redditor said, “There is a need for a system that is empathetic, a system that cares, a system that accepts flexibility.”
A few others pointed out how this shows there is a lack of communication between workers on the ground and those in higher-ups as those in senior positions don’t seem to know what the realities on the ground.
Many pointed out how this disconnect is prevalent in Singapore’s work culture and how the blame for what happened should land on those higher up the ladder as it should be their responsibility to ensure that the proper protocols are in place for dealing with various types of situations and people.
A few people pointed out that the protocols and standard operating procedure should have already included clear provisions on how to handle persons with special needs right from the start if Singapore was “serious about social inclusion”.