The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2017/Dr Goh Wei Leong and HealthServe

Support and affordable care for migrant workers

Dr Goh Wei Leong set up HealthServe in 2006 to provide low-cost medical care to migrant workers.
Dr Goh Wei Leong, co-founder of HealthServe, says its vision is to see dignity in the lives of every migrant. HealthServe will be putting more resources into research and to campaign for causes.
Dr Goh Wei Leong, co-founder of HealthServe, says its vision is to see dignity in the lives of every migrant. HealthServe will be putting more resources into research and to campaign for causes.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year seeks to honour Singaporeans whose extraordinary acts of goodwill have improved their community and the lives of others. Today, ST announces the latest batch of finalists for the third edition of the award.

Since its first affordable clinic for migrant workers opened in 2007, HealthServe's track record has been nothing short of robust.

The non-profit organisation, which now has clinics in Geylang, Mandai and Jurong, saw its consultations double from fewer than 4,000 in 2015 to nearly 8,000 by the end of last year.

In the first three quarters of this year, it helped 445 migrant workers over work injury and salary-related issues, gave out about 20,000 free meals and 1,500 MRT top-ups, and housed 30 workers in its two emergency shelters.

But HealthServe's co-founder Goh Wei Leong, 57, feels it has grown too quickly. "When we grow too fast, we may compromise some of our deeper values... it becomes purely transactional, and loses its soul."

Dr Goh, a general practitioner, co-founded HealthServe in 2006 with businessman Tang Shin Yong.

It has 10 full-time staff, 70 active volunteer doctors, 20 dentists, and 300 volunteers from pharmacists to counsellors.

Workers pay $5 for each medical consultation. Those on Special Pass and unable to work after lodging an injury or salary claim with the Manpower Ministry need not pay.

In the year ahead, HealthServe will enter a more "reflective" phase, pumping more resources into research and to campaign for causes.

Dr Goh added: "Our vision is to see dignity in the lives of every migrant. So we feel going deeper in building relationships and truly bridging communities in a very hostile and broken world is paramount... not just plain efficiency and more programmes."

 

Ways of forging these relationships have included an art and story showcase, Samasama, and Bengali language classes by migrant workers. HealthServe also sponsored a book of poetry, Braving Life, by Bangladeshi construction worker Md Mukul Hossine.

Dr Goh feels the public now has a better understanding of the issues migrant workers face. But many issues from a decade ago are still there, like Bangladeshi workers paying exorbitant fees to work here.

But "we are slowly inching there", he said.


MORE INFORMATION

Members of the public have been nominating Singaporean individuals or groups to be considered for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year Award.

A judging panel has selected the 10 finalists. Public voting will begin on Dec 25 and end on Jan 14 at 6pm. Judges will use the results as reference when making their final decision.

To find out more about The Straits Times Singaporean of The Year award, go to http://str.sg/soty17

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2017, with the headline 'Support and affordable care for migrant workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe