Right in the heart of Geylang on 1, Lorong 23 lies HealthServe, a sanctuary for migrant workers. It is a place where they can seek treatment for illnesses and find comfort in the camaraderie of counterparts from foreign lands.
The premises are painted in the soothing colours of white and blue, feature zinc roofs distinctive of old kampong houses in Singapore decades ago and pots of plants line the corridor. The buildings ring a quadrangle, essentially a field with coconut trees on the fringes, and where various activities take place on different days of the week.
A room nearest the entrance has the scent of traditional Chinese medicine and is occupied by various migrant workers taking a rest. The room next to it is a classroom for medical students. Other rooms are administrative offices, and more importantly, a clinic.
HealthServe was founded by NUS Medicine alumnus Dr Goh Wei Leong (Class of 1985) and businessman Mr Tang Shin Yong in late 2006 to provide medical care for migrant workers in Singapore. These workers, who are largely men aged between 18 to 50 years old, hail from Bangladesh, India and China.
“Migration was a big problem but very few people are looking into it. As a doctor, I felt there was a need to serve this community,” Dr Goh said. Singapore has about one million low-wage migrant workers from the developing world, making up about 30 per cent of the workforce. There were many schemes to help the local poor, but not enough for migrant workers, some of whose companies choose not to pay for their medical bills even though they are ill.
Dr Goh started a clinic in Geylang Lorong 23 with a small team of six doctors, and ran it on Saturday afternoons, charging $5 per consultation. However, patient turnout was not what they expected and they were discouraged.
More Info: nusmedicine.nus.edu.sg