THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
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Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The troubles the already troubled have to go through...

Remember I mentioned earlier that Yah wanted to withdraw her EPF to buy a piece of land and a house she can call her own home so that she need not worry about being chased out again by the present landlord?

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...

Update 1st August 2007:
Yah went to the EPF office today and did as I told her to do - explain about the problem at UTP clinic and to appeal for the 2nd panel clinic to be in Ipoh. The EPF officer actually had a few options and finally told her to go to panel clinic in Ipoh town. I took her there this afternoon and everything is now settled. If only they had given her that clinic or any other Ipoh clinic in the first place things would have been much easier for Yah...


winniethepooh said...

reading your post does makes me feel frustrated as well. All they wanted is a secure roof over their head, why has things got to be this hard to get?

People who never worked/seen things from the views of the troubled, they simply cant put themselves in their (troubled) shoes. Even though we know the system can be improved, without people in authority to improve the system, people can only 'suffer in silence'?

IBU said...

A panel clinic ( presumably private ) to verify the GH MD's report?

I can understand if the medical report is from a private medical centre but to verify a GH report?

How weird is that?

Pure bureaucracy.

Lightnur said...

This is my first time visit to your informative blog. Masha Allah, I am very proud of your volunteering works to support people with HIV. Your works has inspired me to help other. May Allah reward you abundantly. Alhamdulillah, I learnt that Allah has blessed me with so much, so I should not complaints more. May Allah give you patiences and wisdoms in dealing with your works. And I ask Allah to ease your affair when helping these people. We deserved to be treat equally.

Pi Bani said...

You're right, we'd have to try put ourselves in the shoes of the troubled to be able to understand their troubles. Just because doing something is no problem to us, doesn't mean it is not a problem to others.

Pi Bani said...

Wa'alaikum salaam and welcome to my blog. Helping people in need indeed has made me realise how blessed I am.

Thanks for your visit and your kind words.

Pi Bani said...

That's right, the panel clinics appointed are private clinics. Only if the report from GH is signed by a specialist then only it need not be further verified. Otherwise, off to 2 private clinics. Weird indeed... it looks as though they trust MDs from private clinics more than the ones at government hospitals!

Anonymous said...

I empathise with the needy. Geram betul. I pun disuruh ke sini ke sana oleh Kebajikan dan EPF. Beberapa kali I pergi ke Kebajikan cos I am physically disabled. Kerani sana tak tahu apa-apa pun, dapat mereka semang saja bila boss tak ada and selalu rujuk saya ke orang ni orang tu but they all mesyuarat. Akhir sekali tak layak sebab disablitiy saya mesti "lulus" beberapa %. And then with EPF, suruh isi borang ni, tu and in the end, was told that i kena go through interview by the panels. Kalau Kebajikan tak lulus saya, memang EPF pun sama. Can't even withdraw a single cent of my own money! Kalau awal-awal teranglah saja, I no need to pusing the roundabout and go back to square one.

winniethepooh said...

Pi Bani, so glad that things are now settled for Yah n soon she can have a roof over her head :)

God bless u too for the wonderful job that ure doing :)

Pi Bani said...

I can understand your frustration. The least they could have done was to advise you that the chances of getting your application approved was slim. Ni tak, before apply they give you some hope, bila apply after dah pusing roundabout sana-sini they tell you that you don't qualify. That's why I always tell my clients not to put up their hopes too high.

Pi Bani said...

Yes, thank goodness Yah finally got over that part. Now I hope it won't take too long for EPF to officially approve and release Yah's money to her.