The Ministry of Health needs to do better. A woman posted about its shortfalls in handling the quarantine and swabbing of her brother, a special needs individual at [email protected] Both of them had an “utterly shocking” experience thanks to MOH’s incompetency.
Her brother was placed on quarantine on 3 June following the Covid-19 cluster at MINDSville. He has an intellectual disability and needs his family to care for him. She had requested for a Home Quarantine but was rejected. She then informed the MOH officer that she will have to take care of him at the Government Quarantine Facility he is assigned to, as special needs individuals may behave adversely to unfamiliar settings. The MOH officer acknowledged it.
“At 12pm on 4 June, my brother and I were on standby with our luggage, ready to board the shuttle bus to the GQF. To my dismay, I was not listed as a caregiver, and was prohibited from boarding the minivan. I reiterated to the CISCO officer that my brother is intellectually disabled and would require a caregiver’s accompaniment. I used the terms ‘mentally incapacitated’, ‘intellectual disability’, and ‘MINDSville cluster’ to explain my brother’s situation, and none of them seemed to register in the minds of the CISCO officer on site and MOH officers on the phone. After some dispute and disagreement, we were instructed to wait for the next pick up at home.”
When they finally arrived at the swab site, they had to go through another ordeal. “To describe the swabbing experience as horrifying would be to undermine what my brother was put through.”
The staff did not allow her to go near her brother even though she tried to tell them about the difficulties in swabbing an intellectually disabled person. She could only watch from a distance as the workers and her brother struggled for 30 minutes without getting the swab done.
“All the swabbers took turns trying to swab my brother, who became increasingly frustrated and was on the brink of an aggressive meltdown. His agitation, discomfort, and frustration were apparent, brought about by his inability to comprehend the situation, and his being surrounded by unfamiliar masked faces, away from his caregiver. After a good 30 minutes, they finally heeded my suggestion and allowed me to step in and assist them.”
If they listened and tried to understand her in the first place, her brother and the swabbers would not have to go through all that. None of the workers there were prepared. “I can only imagine how stressful and traumatic it must have been for the MINDSville clients who were accompanied by their ageing parents”.
MOH knew about the MINDSville cluster so it is appalling that it did not prepare for this. It did not even communicate properly with the caregiver. If they were more understanding and compassionate, the woman and her brother would not have such a painful experience.
“The utter lack of awareness… was shocking and disappointing. Despite the many campaigns and programmes run by various government-led organizations for inclusivity, to celebrate and help special needs persons… it seems that the most urgent need for education would be right in the MOH backyard… With a little compassion and empathy, our healthcare system can become more inclusive and cater to the needs of all.”