And in one of my earlier postings titled “When the poor need help”, I also mentioned the kind of troubles the poor need to go through to get help… even in withdrawing their own money?
Let’s see what Yah has to go through in withdrawing her EPF money…
First and foremost, when withdrawing EPF under permanent disability, a medical report needs to be produced. Since Yah’s checkups and follow-ups are all done at the GH, all she needed to do was to get a copy of her medical report from the hospital. Just go to the medical records unit and apply for the report. Within a month, if there are no complications, they will post the report to you.
Sounds easy? Well, for the average person, maybe so. But for the poor where even a single sen matters, it’s not that easy. To get the medical report, a fee of RM40 needs to be paid to get a medical officer signing the report, or RM80 if you want a specialist to sign it. If a report is signed by a specialist, then when the medical report is submitted to the EPF, the applicant need not go to any panel clinics appointed by EPF. Since Yah could not afford to pay RM80, she opted for the report to be signed by an MO – even then the RM40 was already a substantial amount for her.
When I left Yah at the EPF office on the day of my last clinic duty (after she received the medical report from the hospital), I had already briefed her on what to expect. I told her that EPF would request her to go to 2 of EPF’s panel clinic to confirm the medical report that she submitted with her EPF withdrawal application. I advised her to specifically ask the EPF officers to let her do her medical checkup at any panel clinics located in northern Perak so that Yah wouldn’t have to travel so far.
Just about 2 weeks before that, when I brought Ani to EPF office for the same purpose, she was told to go to a private clinic in Ipoh while the other panel clinic was Pusat Kesihatan UTP, within UTP’s compounds. I thought that since Ani stays in a nearby town, that was why she was sent to UTP.
Much to my surprise, when Yah showed me her letters, she was supposed to go to the 2 same panel clinics that Ani was sent to. I asked why she didn’t ask for a nearer clinic. Yah said she already did, but the EPF officer told her they didn’t have any nearer clinic, the 2 clinics were all they could offer.
Seriously, EPF is such a big organization… surely they’d have panel clinics all over the state? The fact that the applicants had to submit medical reports already indicate they have medical problems. To add to that most of these applicants (or at least those whom I’m helping out) are from poor families. Although they don’t have to pay any fee to the panel clinics, traveling still requires money! I can understand EPF’s need to confirm the medical reports submitted by asking the applicants to go to EPF’s appointed panel clinics, but why trouble them by asking them to travel so far to get that done?
Yah was worried even about finding the clinic in Ipoh. The only places she’s familiar with in Ipoh are the bus station and the hospital. But I told her not to worry about the clinic in Ipoh as I knew the place and I’d take her there.
Just to come to Ipoh, Yah needs to take 3 buses at least: One from her kampong to the nearest town… then from that town to a bigger town… and finally from the bigger town to Ipoh. Asking her to go all the way to UTP would mean she’d have to take another bus to a town she was not familiar with. She doesn’t even know what bus to take. Okay, she can ask around, but the bus would stop right outside UTP. We’re talking about a university here… can you imagine how far she’d have to walk in to get to the clinic?
The letters given by EPF indicated that she was supposed to go to the clinics last Thursday. After giving it much consideration, I didn’t have the heart to let her go to UTP on her own. So when she called me saying that she was already at the Ipoh bus station, I immediately called the clinic in UTP to confirm that the doctor was in. Ani had told me earlier that she had to go twice because the first time she went the doctor was not in. The lady who answered the call said the doctor was in.
So after I fetched Yah at the bus station, I immediately drove her to UTP. When we got to the clinic and showed the EPF letter to the reception, we were told they had not received the letter from EPF (EPF is supposed to send letters direct to the clinic where the applicants are sent to) and therefore were unable to confirm her medical report as they had no idea what Yah’s reported ailments were and they were supposed to confirm Yah’s health condition on a specific form provided by EPF. They said maybe the letter from EPF had already reached UTP’s admin, but the letter had not reached the clinic. When the clinic assistants found out that Yah had to come all the way from Northern Perak, they were sympathetic and tried to help. They said they’d try to call their admin office and ask the people there to send the EPF letter (if any) to the clinic, but they didn’t dare confirm that it would be there by afternoon or even the next day. Were we supposed to wait there for something that wasn’t even confirmed?
I decided not to wait. Yah had another clinic to go to so I drove her back to Ipoh to send her to the other panel clinic. Not much problem at this clinic. Everything was done fast. I then took Yah for lunch before sending her to the bus station. She asked if she should come back on Monday, but I told her to wait for my call. I will have to call the clinic first, ask them if the letter is ready AND ask them if the doctor would be in. Then only I’ll tell Yah to come.
Came Monday, I called the UTP clinic, and again I was told they have not received the letter from EPF. No point asking Yah to come. It will be a waste of time, money and energy. The girl at the clinic took down my number and promised to call me once she gets any news. This morning the girl from the clinic called me. She told me that even UTP admin confirmed that they HAD NOT received any letters from EPF on Yah’s matter and therefore even if I brought Yah there today, they would still not be able to help. Yah will have no choice but to go back to EPF.
So I called Yah, told her to go to EPF and explain the whole matter to them and if possible, to appeal to them to let her go to another panel clinic in Ipoh so that she wouldn’t have to go all the way back to UTP.
I still don’t understand why the EPF officer decided to send Yah all the way to UTP to do her checkup. Was it really necessary to get Yah to travel more than 150 kms away from her house to confirm her medical report when there are so many other clinics to choose from?
I feel like asking the officers for the reasons behind their decision but I can already imagine their reaction, “Awak ni siapa?” (Oh yes, I’ve received that kind of reaction before! Probably some people think I’m one of those scumbags who take advantage of unsuspecting poor victims.) And chances are they’d give the same answer given to Yah… that there is no nearer clinic. They can fool Yah but please… EPF can only offer 2 panel clinics in the whole of Perak? I know for a fact there are other panel clinics in Ipoh. The least they could have done was to get Yah to do both her checkups in Ipoh… at least she didn’t have to travel from one town to another town. And in this case, due to the inefficiency, not only did she have to travel so far; she traveled so far for nothing. She could have used the money to buy food and other household necessities.
As I mentioned earlier, all Yah wants to do is withdraw HER OWN MONEY so she can buy a small piece of land and an old house she can call her own. She doesn’t want to worry about the prospect of being chased out by the present landlord again…
An aunt of Yah’s has indicated that she wants to sell off her piece of land (with an old house already built on it) within the same kampong that Yah is staying in now. Yah had indicated to her aunt that she wants to buy it from her once she gets her EPF money. Hopefully Yah can get her money before the aunt decides to sell to someone else. At least if she can stay in the same kampong she doesn’t have to worry about transferring her children to another school.
On a lighter note, the doctor at the panel clinic in Ipoh (the one Yah had already gone to) told Yah that there should be no problem getting her application approved. The only hiccup now is to get over one more panel clinic. Hopefully the next time Yah comes down everything will be settled. I dread the possibility of the poor woman having to travel up and down a few more times without getting any conclusive results...