Woodlands flat 'smells worse than a public toilet'

The smell of urine is so strong in this Woodlands flat that it is keeping some residents awake at night.

Others hold their breath when they walk past it.

Some resort to attaching cardboard pieces to their windows in a desperate bid to keep the odour out.

The flat is that of an elderly man who is believed to be suffering from an enlarged prostate, which is causing him to lose control of his bladder.

The 88-year-old's problem is that he has not been cleaning up immediately after urinating.

Although no one has made any official complaint to the town council over the matter, some residents of Block 161 on Woodlands Street 13 are hoping that something can be done about the problem.

Said one, housewife Mallorine Yeow, 53, who lives directly above the man's unit: "The smell sometimes keeps me from sleeping at night. It is unpleasant and disgusting. We also don't have air-conditioning in the house."

A music teacher who lives next door to theman and who wanted to be known only as Mr Huang, 57, said: "The resident always keeps the door open and the corridor smells of urine.

"I close my door to stop the smell from coming into my flat. I also turn on the fan very often. The corridor smells worse than a public toilet."

The resident's other next-door neighbour, a housewife in her 60s who declined to be named, said: "I have to walk by his flat to get to mine every day. But the smell is so bad that I cover my mouth and hold my breath, or I'll feel like fainting."

Two years ago, she attached cardboard pieces to her kitchen window to try and keep the smell out. She said: "How will I be able to cook and eat otherwise?"

The resident in the centre of the complaints is Mr Dawart HJ Abdul, 88, who has been living in the three-room flat for more than 40 years.

The retiree told The New Paper that his wife, who was in her 80s, lived with him until she died late last year.

The pair have no children.

Mr Dawart, who is Singaporean, also said he has five children from a previous marriage who are based in Malaysia.

They only visit him once every few months and he does not know how to contact them, he said.

After his wife's death, a friend moved in to take care of him.

This friend, odd-job worker Khamis Ibrahim, 51, told TNP: "Mr Dawart is an old man. He doesn't cause trouble or disturb people. What else do they want?"

He confirmed that Mr Dawart has been having difficulties controlling his bladder "for many years".

The old man urinates frequently, sometimes in his trousers, and he finds it inconvenient to take any form of transportation due to his condition, said Mr Khamis.

Can't afford treatment

Can't afford treatment

Mr Dawart does not know exactly what he is suffering from.

When we suggested that he seek medical treatment, Mr Khamis said: "He doesn't need to. He is not in pain. Medical treatment is also expensive and Mr Dawart is poor."

According to the neighbours, the smell was not as strong when Mr Dawart's wife was alive as she cleaned the house often.

Mr Khamis confirmed this and said: "I clean the house every day. I try my best, but I also have to work."

In addition to caring for the old man, Mr Khamis also cooks for him and spends whatever money he can spare on him.

He said: "I really treat him like my own father. He also has many friends in the neighbourhood who are happy to give him food when he is hungry."

Mr Khamis acknowledged that Mr Dawart smelled of urine and that the flat's door is kept open every day for "ventilation".

But does he know the smell is irritating the neighbours?

"They didn't say anything about it to me," said Mr Khamis. "I hope the neighbours can be more understanding. Old people are like this and there is really nothing I can do."

Senior Counsel George Lim, a certified mediator with the International Mediation Institute and a board member of the Singapore Mediation Centre, said that it is in the interest of Mr Dawart and his neighbours to communicate their concerns to one another.

"Hopefully, with dialogue, the neighbours will be able to put Mr Dawart in touch with the relevant government or social agencies or voluntary welfare organisations to assist him medically or financially, and solve the problem," said Mr Lim.

"If he has family members, they should, of course, be asked to assist first."

Mr Lim also suggested getting help from the Community Mediation Centre (CMC), a department under the Ministry of Law that provides community mediation services.

If the CMC accepts the case, it will assign a mediator to help the parties find a solution.

Added Mr Lim: "There could be many possible solutions, such as medical treatment, the use of adult diapers and/or getting volunteer caregivers to assist Mr Dawart."

Sembawang GRC Member of Parliament Hawazi Daipi, in whose ward the block lies, told TNP in an e-mail yesterday: "The Marsiling CCC Welfare Committee will visit Mr Dawart and work with the various agencies to render whatever assistance we can to him."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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