Firing staff with TB sends wrong message

The swift action taken by Little Greenhouse childcare centre and the Ministry of Health to screen children and staff for tuberculosis (TB) after a teacher was diagnosed with the disease is highly commendable ("Pre-schoolers screened for TB at Bt Batok centre"; yesterday).

However, I read with unease that the school has decided to terminate the teacher's contract early.

While the school is entirely within its legal rights with regard to labour laws in Singapore, the message the termination sends is worrying. Will patients avoid treatment in future, because of fear for their livelihoods?

The Health Ministry has said that a person infected with TB rapidly becomes non-infectious once treatment starts. The ministry added: "TB transmission typically requires close and prolonged contact with an infectious individual. It is not spread by contact with items or surfaces touched by a person with TB."

Given these reassurances, there is no reason to add to the already palpable fear of patients.

If patients delay seeking timely medical help because of fears of having their employment terminated, it would only increase the health burden of the disease on society.

Tai Yu Hsiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'Firing staff with TB sends wrong message'. Print Edition | Subscribe