Out of hospital, but still in their care

When her patient was asked to move out of his home because his landlord did not want to be responsible for him, medical social worker (MSW) Dorea Quek sprang into action.

She not only helped him find a new home after he was discharged, she also helped him to move in.

Ms Quek, 25, has been an MSW at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) for two years.

MSWs help to find financial assistance for patients, counsel the patients and their family members, and tend to the needs of patients who require assistance after being discharged.

Ms Quek's patient, known only as Mr Tan, 82, had no family members and suffered from pneumonia.

She said: "In my capacity as a social worker, I became a family member to him.

"We brought him to HDB Hub to get his application (to rent a flat) done.

"I helped him to withdraw money to pay his rent, assisted him in paying hospital bills, arranged to buy a bed and mattress and even helped him to move house.

"For some patients, we have to go to this extent because their social support might not be as comprehensive," said Ms Quek.

Another MSW, Ms Ismawanty Abdul Razak, 26, also went out of her way for her patients.

She recalled searching for next of kin for her patient, known only as Mr Sim, 86, who had died.

A next of kin is required to sign the death certificate of the deceased.

The patient's only relative was his daughter, Ms Sim, in her 40s, who had schizophrenia and could not afford to pay for transport to see her father.


She initially refused to help Ms Ismawanty. But after many phone calls and house visits, Ms Ismawanty brought her from her home in Queenstown to KTPH, in Yishun, in a taxi.

Ms Sim signed the death certificate and Ms Ismawanty worked with an undertaker to carry out Mr Sim's last rites.

She also worked with a community social worker to address Ms Sim's needs.

The MSWs said they customise care plans for each patient.

Ms Quek said: "You must tailor to their needs because different patients have different needs."

Ms Ismawanty added: "You have to be versatile and flexible. We don't have one care plan to suit everybody.

"We need to make sure we mould that care plan so that it impacts them in a way that is meaningful."

Despite the difficulties they encounter, both social workers said the job is rewarding.

Said Ms Ismawanty: "At the end of the day, we find it very meaningful and it becomes worthwhile."

The 22 MSWs at KTPH look after about 30 to 45 patients each a month.

A photo exhibition will be held at KTPH from today to April 14 highlighting the work of an MSW. (See report on facing page.)

It hopes to attract more people to the profession.

Ms Jenny Goh, principal medical social worker at KTPH said: "We are the gel between the patients and the systems in the hospital. We make a holistic


"We emphasise this at the exhibition and have different pictures that will showcase that."

Social workers in focus

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) is organising a photo exhibition to showcase medical social workers from today to April 14.

The exhibition features photos by a former Lianhe Zaobao and award-winning photographer, Mr Bob Lee.

Mr Lee has won several awards, most notably at the ClickArt: World Photojournalists Meet 2003 and the Ifra Asia Media Awards 2008.

He also received an Honourable Mention in Prix de la Photographie in Paris 2009.

On the exhibition, Mr Lee said: "It was a special experience for me because usually the focus is on the patients.

"So this was a good opportunity to show what medical social workers do for patients and their families." More than 20 of his photos will be exhibited at the main lobby in KTPH. Admission is free.

This is the first time that the Medical Social Service at KTPH is organising such an exhibition.

It hopes to raise awareness of medical social work and entice the public to consider this as a viable career.

Medical social workers need to have a bachelor's degree in social work.

For more information on medical social workers, go to the Singapore Association of Social Workers website, www.sasw.org.sg.

This article was first published on April 8, 2015.
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