While the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) requires employers to send their helpers for a twice-yearly medical check-up, this only covers a pregnancy test and certain infectious diseases.
If you are keen to looking after your helper’s overall wellness, here are some options to consider.
1. General health tests
These cover the usual: blood pressure, cholesterol level, urine and stool analysis, and blood sugar levels (diabetes test).
Any general practitioner (GP) or polyclinic will be able to give your helper a basic check-up.
Before making an appointment, discuss it with your maid. Would she prefer a male or female doctor, or would she like someone who speaks her own language? The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) can advise on clinics with multilingual staff.
2. Cancer checks
Consider the age and risk factors of your helper. Is or was she a smoker? Does she have a family history of any particular cancers?
Some cancers can be ruled out with quick and easy tests like a Pap smear or mammogram.
3. Contraception and STDs
As this is very personal, it may be difficult to bring it up with your helper. Approach it with sensitivity, or simply suggest she discuss it with her doctor herself.
4. Dental check-ups
Some clinics offer discounts for helpers, so it’s worth checking before booking an appointment.
Tight budget? HOME has a dental clinic for foreign domestic workers at highly subsidised rates. But take note: It has a two- to three-month waitlist for appointments.
Although Singapore has a National Childhood Immunisation Programme, this doesn’t extend to adults. Nonetheless, if you want to ensure that everyone in the household is protected from infectious diseases, then consider immunisations for your nanny.
Dr. Kaye McMullen from International Medical Clinic (IMC) says, “If your helper will be caring for your baby, it is important to have her vaccinated for pertussis (whooping cough) and flu to prevent her from becoming infected and passing it onto your child.
"It is also important to have your helper tested to see if she is a Hepatitis B carrier and whether she is immune to Hepatitis B. If she is not immune, consider having her vaccinated with a series of three vaccinations over six months.”
Other vaccinations such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella, Dr. McMullen explains, “require discussion about childhood vaccinations and illness to determine if vaccination is necessary.”
If your helper prepares meals for you, Dr. McMullan suggests considering Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations, too, as these are foodborne illnesses.
IMC charges $45 for a flu vaccination, $67 for Hepatitis A, $90 for typhoid and $93.50 for a combo for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
6. Mental Health
Being away from their families leaves helpers vulnerable to depression and social isolation.
If you notice a sudden change in your maid’s attitude or personality, she may be feeling lonely or upset.
Even if she’s been with you for a long time, family problems in her home country may be causing her stress.
The Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) has a 24-hour multilingual helpline, and offers a ‘Befrienders’ service for social support. HOME also offers a 24-hour helpline for helpers in distress.
If you are unsure how to approach her, leave these numbers in a general list of emergency contacts in a prominent place like the refrigerator door.
What to do if your helper falls seriously ill
According to MOM, the employer is responsible for paying all medical costs deemed necessary by a medical or dental professional, and mandates that a helper’s employers take out medical insurance of a minimum of $15,000 annually.
As an employer, you are required under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act to pay the cost of both inpatient and outpatient treatment and day surgery during your helper’s stay in Singapore. Helpers are not eligible for subsidised medical care, which is why employers are obliged to pick up the tab for anything above the insured amount.
If your helper becomes seriously ill, you may have a choice of having her treated in Singapore or sending her home. According to MOM, “Employers may send the Foreign Domestic Worker home to continue treatment in her home country once her condition has stabilised and she is deemed medically fit to travel.”
Once she is repatriated, you are no longer obligated to pay treatment costs.
However, be aware that medical standards in her home country may vary greatly from those in Singapore, and she may not have insurance or the means to pay for treatment.
If you do not want to send her home for treatment, but are unable to cover her medical costs yourself, options are unfortunately limited. MOM expects employers to cover the entire cost of any necessary treatment in Singapore.
While charitable organisations such as FAST and Transient Workers Count Too can offer assistance to injured or ill workers, their funds are limited.
Some hospitals may offer instalment payment plans, but the best solution is to have comprehensive insurance in place when employing a helper.
By Karola Clark, The Finder, January 2017
Like this? Read more domestic stories here.
Want to see more?