For the past month we’ve been getting quite a few referrals of PLHIVs from Dr Ker who goes to Taiping Hospital once a month. Since we have yet to start our support service at Taiping Hospital, the doctor had to do extra work getting the details of the PLHIVs whom she thought would need help from us – particularly the poor ones.
Well yes, we had in our last board meeting decided that we’d start our services there this month, but that will only be on the last Tuesday of each month. Which we have yet to start. I’d need to check first where the ID clinic is situated and if there is any room available for us to talk to the patients.
Anyway, since we had yet to visit 3 of the newly referred cases, I thought I might as well go to Taiping, not only to check on the location of the ID clinic, but also to visit the PLHIVs and arrange for them to sign whatever forms necessary to apply for financial assistance.
So yep, I made arrangements with a Tamil speaking volunteer (since 2 of the PLHIVs referred to us were Indians, I wanted to play safe in case they’d feel comfortable speaking Tamil), and a new volunteer in Ipoh to join me for the visit. And since we do have another new volunteer who works as a doctor in Taiping hospital who happened to be free today (because she was on call yesterday), I also made arrangements for her to join us.
Before we made a move from Ipoh, we tried to call the 3 PLHIVs whom we wanted to visit. My colleague called Rajan, and then Roslan. Their phones rang, but neither of them answered the phone. I tried calling Roslan too, again he didn’t answer the phone. I then called Selvi, the call didn’t even get through. However, when Selvi’s particulars were given to me last week, I was told she was warded at the hospital. So I figured she was still at the hospital and so we’d just visit her at the ward.
It had been quite a while since I had last been to Taiping hospital (must be many many years ago when my sister was working there… ooh… I think that was more than 20 years ago!). Things certainly look different now! And with some construction work going on within the hospital compound, I did get somewhat confused as to where to go once I got in through the main gate. So I called our volunteer doctor for directions on where to go.
Next problem was getting a parking spot. Due to the construction works, there were even less spaces for cars and many just simply parked their cars by the roadside (within the hospital compounds lah).
Thank goodness we had the doctor in our team. It was much easier to check if Selvi was still warded. And once we found out that she was still in the ward, it was easier to visit her despite it not being visiting hours yet. Just follow the doctor lah!
Meanwhile I tried calling Roslan again. Again, he didn’t answer the call but this time he sent me a text message asking who I was. When I mentioned that I wanted to meet up with him to arrange for schooling help for his children, immediately he replied saying that he didn’t mind meeting up as long as we don’t visit him at home. I then called him, and this time finally he answered the call. Why was it so difficult for him to answer calls anyway? Takut orang mintak hutang ka??
Well, we arranged for a time and place to meet. I figured that would just give us enough time to visit Selvi at the ward first. I had also wanted to meet up with the nurse in charge of the ID clinic; but since there was no ID clinic for today, we were told she’d usually be at the ward (same ward where Selvi was admitted). Too bad, she wasn’t on duty today – we were told she’d only be on duty tomorrow morning.
With the help of our volunteer doctor, we managed to see Selvi. In fact, it was easier meeting her when other visitors were not around… at least there was some privacy.
By her looks, Selvi could easily pass off as a Malay. As a matter of fact, when my colleague tried to converse with her in Tamil, she said she wasn’t too well versed in Tamil. So yeah, we spoke in Malay.
Apparently Selvi had been warded since 3 months ago. When asked about her children, she said the 2 younger ones (aged 5 & 6) are now under the care of the Welfare Department’s Old Folks Home nearby; while the older 3 (11, 12 & 13) are at a private shelter home. Her husband died 5 years ago, and her parents have died too… while her siblings, after knowing about her illness, chose to stay away.
Asked about her home (the address given to us earlier on when her case was referred to us), she said it was a rented house and she no longer lives there now. When asked where she’d be going once she’s discharged from the hospital, she couldn’t give an answer. In other words, she’s homeless.
Initially we thought Selvi wasn’t discharged as she didn’t have to home to go to. But when we asked the nurses there, we were told that she had been defaulting her hospital appointments and medication, and so to make sure she’s compliant, they made her stay at the hospital for at least 6 months so they can monitor her.
As for her children, Selvi is allowed to visit the ones taken care by the Old Folks Home twice a month. And in fact for Deepavali she’s allowed to bring them home. But without a home, where was she to take them to? However, since Selvi was warded for the past 3 months, she has yet to see the 2 younger children. The staff at the ward told her to call the home to tell them that she had been warded, so that at least they know why Selvi had not been visiting; but Selvi didn’t even know their number.
We promised Selvi we’d arrange to inform the home about her being unable to visit her children. She doesn’t want them to think that she ran away and simply left her children there for good.
The problem now is her 3 older children. According to Selvi, they’re now at a Church-based shelter home. She was supposed to pay the home a certain amount every month to cover for their schooling needs. But Selvi hasn’t been working and she couldn’t afford to pay. Selvi doesn’t even know the proper name of the home. What surprised us most was that, according to Selvi, she wasn’t allowed to visit or even to talk to them. It has been about 2 years now and for that long she had not met them.
Hmmm… why wouldn’t they want the children to meet their own mother I wonder? That’s not a good thing to do.
But then again, we’ve only heard one side of the story. If indeed the people at the shelter home didn’t allow Selvi to visit her own children, maybe there’s something else Selvi isn’t telling us? Like the reason they wouldn’t allow her to visit her kids?
Right now there are a few things we need to do. First is to contact the Old Folks Home where her 2 younger children are. They’d have to be informed why Selvi hadn’t been visiting.
Then we’d need to find out where the shelter home for her 3 older children is. And we’d need to find out why they wouldn’t allow Selvi to see her children.
Besides that, we also need to find out if there are any shelter homes willing to take in Selvi AND her children, so that by the time Selvi can be discharged from the hospital, she’d have a place to go to, and she can bring her children along to stay with her. The way things are for the moment, we cannot arrange for financial help yet. That can only be done once we can a proper shelter for herself and her children.
Done with Selvi’s case, off we went to meet up with Roslan. I was reversing my car from the car park when he called to say that he was already at the restaurant near the hospital where we promised to meet up. I told him we’d reach there in just a few minutes.
Since we were meeting at a restaurant, and it was after 12 noon, I decided we might as well have lunch there. I was already hungry (had breakfast at 7 am). We just collected particulars about himself, his wife and his 4 children. With an income averaging to about RM300 per month (kerja bendang), they definitely needed help… but at least his problems are not as bad as Selvi’s.
We just got him to sign the necessary form, and told him to photostat the necessary supporting documents. I can probably get the supporting documents from him when we start our support service at Taiping hospital at the end of this month.
As for Rajan, the other PLHIV referred to us, we couldn’t get hold of him and we didn’t have his address either. So nope, we didn’t get to meet him today.
UPDATE: As mentioned in my original posting, we only heard one side of the story. So we did our own investigation and found out the following:
1. Selvi claimed she was not allowed to see her children at the shelter home. We managed to get in touch with the person in charge - he mentioned there's no such thing. As a matter of fact, when we told him that Selvi had been warded for the past 3 months, he promised he'd bring the children to visit her.
2. According to Selvi, the 2 younger children are staying at one of the Welfare Dept's old folks home. We checked with the Welfare Dept, and was told that they never took Selvi's children. Further checks revealed that the 2 children are at a children's home run by an NGO. The person in charge also promised he'd bring the children to visit their mother at the hospital.