Woman loses appeal for residency visa in Australia

Tribunal rejects claim she would not get adequate medical care in S'pore hospitals

An Australian migration tribunal has rejected an elderly Singaporean woman's claim that she would not get adequate medical attention in Singapore hospitals if she was seriously ill.

The tribunal, using its own research on the Singapore Ministry of Health's website, said the health-care system in Singapore provided for different tiers of protection, such as via Medifund, MediShield and Medisave.

The mixed financing system is to ensure no Singaporean is denied access to basic health care because of affordability issues, the tribunal noted.

"The tribunal remains troubled by the sponsor's assertions that were the applicant in dire medical need, she would not be treated in a Singapore hospital because of lack of finances and lack of health insurance," it said in decision grounds out last week.

The Melbourne-based Migration Review Tribunal had convened last month to consider the appeal of the applicant, Madam Low Seok Keow, 79, over her failure to obtain a residency visa from the Australian authorities.

Madam Low, who had repeatedly visited her Australia-based son and his family, had sought the visa as an aged dependant to be supported by him as the sponsor.

She had testified with her son Lim Siak Wah and grandchild Cheryl Lim before the tribunal last November.

Tribunal member Rosa Gagliardi expressed doubts over whether the widow had substantially depended on her son for support for a reasonable period prior to the application.

She accepted that Mr Lim had a "strong cultural and emotional attachment" to his mother and took care of her well-being. But there was not enough to show that she depended on him more than on any other person or source of support.

Her profile showed that she had strong personal and financial attachments in Singapore, and had incentives to return here. Among other things, she had interests in the Singapore properties of her two sons and deposits totalling about $225,000.

She had said the deposit funds were kept to deal with any "unforeseen and high escalating cost of medical bills or treatment during emergencies such as (for) chronic illness".

She had also argued that she was totally outside all the schemes and was unable to contribute to Medisave because she used to be self-employed.

But the tribunal pointed out that, given the average Medisave account held $16,900, even if she did not contribute to such a scheme, "her total savings well exceed $16,900, meaning she (has) the ability to fund her medical requirements without diminishing her overall savings significantly".

vijayan@sph.com.sg