Health checks for cabbies and cabs

Two firms offer drivers check-ups when they take cabs in for servicing

Two taxi operators here have teamed up with the authorities to help their cabbies keep better tabs on their health as they navigate long hours on the road.

Drivers with SMRT and ComfortDelGro will be able to go for health screenings when they take vehicles for servicing.

“When they send their taxis for checks, they themselves can go for a check-up as well,” said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, during a visit to SMRT’s Woodlands depot yesterday.

The year-long pilot programme by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) will have community nurses checking drivers’ weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
It targets 2,880 taxi drivers above the age of 50, or about 80 per cent of all cabbies here.

Those found to have chronic diseases will be advised to see their own doctors – no medication will be issued.

I try to maintain my diet, exercise and lower my blood pressure but it’s difficult.
– Veteran taxi driver Vincent Yap

Cabbies will also get access to personalised health coaching to help them live more healthily, said HPB’s chief executive Zee Yoong Kang.

The service, which started in June, is available at SMRT’s Woodlands service depot and ComfortDelGro’s Loyang engineering centre.

It is part of the Government’s Healthy Living Masterplan, which aims to improve the health of mature workers with irregular shifts and work locations.

It might also be rolled out to service workers, security guards and cleaners, said Dr Khor.

Such health checks are useful because of their long working hours, said cabbies.

Veteran taxi driver Vincent Yap, for instance, is on the road for 16 hours daily. The 55-year-old has to take two different pills for his high cholesterol and blood pressure.

“I try to maintain my diet, exercise and lower my blood pressure but it’s difficult,” he said.

Polyclinic doctor Marvin Chan also highlighted cabbies’ health problems in a letter to The Straits Times’ Forum page last week.

He wrote that many of his taxi driver patients complained their long hours made controlling conditions like diabetes very difficult.

He urged the Land Transport Authority to ease the 250km daily mileage quota for drivers like these.

“Some share that they missed their meals or their medication because they were driving and in a rush,” he said.

The Land Transport Authority and taxi operators said in response to queries that they encourage cabbies to work with a relief driver, slashing the hours on the road.

“We also do a lot of promotions for our health screenings and remind them to regularly exercise,” said Mr Benny Lim, managing director of roads for SMRT.