SINGAPORE: A 26-year-old domestic helper has been hospitalized after battling meningitis, brain inflammation, and a subsequent stroke on 14 January.
The employer, who wishes to be known as Basdeo, is now reaching out for support on a crowdfunding site, Go Get Funding, as financial strain mounts.
Mothership reported that the trouble began unexpectedly on 28 December when Jomhao Veinthutheng, the helper, started experiencing severe headaches and vomiting while accompanying Basdeo’s brother to a hospital appointment.
Initially prescribed medication by a general practitioner (GP), her condition unfortunately worsened, prompting a visit to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department. There, CT scan revealed that there were abnormalities in her brain.
After undergoing a series of tests, she was eventually diagnosed with inflammation and bleeding in her brain, leading to her hospitalization.
Feeling pressured and upset over the financial burden, Jomhao insisted on returning to India for medical care, despite Basdeo’s attempts to convince her to continue treatment in Singapore.
Eventually, her employer gave in and started searching for a hospital close to Jomhao’s home.
However, before her departure, she fell critically ill on 13 January, resulting in vomiting and weakness on her left side.
Subsequent hospitalization disclosed that Jomhao had suffered a stroke, and would require an emergency surgery to remove blood clots.
In an update on her fundraising page, Basdeo stated on 16 January that Jomhao had started responding positively.
“She is able to open her eyes and follow basic commands,” she wrote.
“The new bill at NUH is at S$24 966. I paid S$2000 as deposit and will continue updates on payments,” she added.
Currently, Jomhao remains in the hospital under sedation, though the duration of her hospitalization is uncertain.
Challenges and financial impact
According to Mothership Jomhao was hired prior to the alterations in domestic helpers’ insurance requirements, where the minimum coverage was raised to S$60,000 starting from 1 July, 2023.
Therefore, the insurance provided by the agency as part of her employment package only includes coverage for hospitalization and surgery expenses, limited to S$15,000.
By 11th January, before her stroke and surgery, her medical expenses had already exceeded this amount.
According to a spokesperson from the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), S$15,000 is unlikely to be sufficient to cover the medical expenses of domestic helpers during severe illnesses.
This is due to their non-Singaporean status, making them ineligible for medical subsidies.
Even with the increased medical insurance coverage of $60,000, it might still be insufficient, especially for conditions like cancer or kidney dialysis, which can incur costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as stated by the spokesperson.
As such, employers are advised to communicate with their insurance providers to secure higher coverage for their helpers.
Additionally, they are encouraged to schedule regular health screenings for their helpers to identify illnesses at an early stage.
Before, Basdeo had also reached out to the agency for help because she was unsure whether she could manage all the medical expenses.
However, when she contacted the agency during Jomhao’s initial hospitalization, she was outright told to send her back.
After the stroke re-hospitalization, the agency questioned why Jomhao wasn’t sent back earlier.
In response, Basdeo said, “This is a young girl, this is a young child. I treat her like my own child, my own sister.”
Meningitis is a serious illness that requires prompt treatment for the best chance of recovery.
“Studies have shown delayed treatment for bacterial meningitis can cause significant mortality,” Tu Tian Ming, a neurologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital said.
Comments on Mothership’s Facebook post
Anyone interested in contributing to Jomhao’s medical treatment can make donations through the fundraising page.
As of the time of writing, over S$27,000 has already been raised toward the S$150,000.00 goal.
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