Coronavirus Updates

Avoid the hospitals? I’m a medical social worker who has no such luxury

Germaine Lim // February 20, 2020, 10:37 am

Covid love neighbor 6

When the first COVID-19 case was reported in Singapore, many were engulfed by fear and paranoia as the world did not know just how contagious or severe the virus was.

The hospital was the first place that people started avoiding. But as a medical social worker, the hospital is my workplace, and unlike the rest, I could not avoid it!

I was fearful because not much was known about the virus at that point in time. All that my hospital could do was to prepare for the worst-case scenario, so we looked into how we would respond as a team and the protective measures we would take for our patients and ourselves.

“We are prepared to die today,” says frontline doctor

Even though I was rather anxious myself, I chose to remain faithful to my responsibilities as a medical social worker.

My patients are a vulnerable group in Singapore because they have lower incomes and pre-existing medical conditions. My job frequently requires me to assess their financial situation and apply for financial assistance on their behalf to either the hospital or the government.

And because of their pre-existing medical conditions, I also help to follow up with care plans for my patients especially when issues surface in their care at home.

Knowing that they are more susceptible to the repercussions of COVID-19, I focused my efforts on supporting them such that their lives would not be badly affected.

But we faced challenges almost immediately, like when some Singaporeans started panic-buying at supermarkets.

When people panic-buy, my patients’ livelihoods are severely affected. Most of them have just enough to purchase food essentials for that one day. Empty shelves for an entire day meant an insufficient supply of groceries for them that day.

My colleague also told me a story involving her cancer patient, whose chemotherapy treatment caused her immune system to be weaker than others.

This patient was likely more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 – which would lead to further health complications – and yet she was unable to purchase the hand sanitisers and surgical masks that she needed!

What kind of world did I just wake up to?

As more issues like these surfaced in my work, I began to see just how much distress COVID-19 was bringing to the vulnerable and needy. And I realised that I had to remain faithful as the patients need our emotional support and encouragement to carry on with their lives.

So I stayed dedicated to the work that God entrusted me with, and in doing so my fears began to give way to faith. Along the way, I was also reminded that the assurance of my salvation should overflow in my life through faith – not fear.

The basis of all I do as a medical social worker comes from my identity as a child of God.

It is knowing Him that empowers me to love the needy. As His child, my only rightful response is to love my neighbour as I love myself.

Even without COVID-19, a medical social worker’s job is tough and emotionally draining.

And with many sacrifices to be made on the personal front, I take heart that I have a fiancé who stands by me in challenging moments and is a man after God’s heart.

Because he recognises God’s sovereignty and call for me in the healthcare industry, he’s extremely supportive even though our wedding and honeymoon plans are currently up in the air. There are so many things we have to get done before our wedding in April, yet we’re not even certain if we can go ahead given the health concerns.

Even though our plans have been disrupted, we look forward to seeing God’s greater purpose for us as a couple.

The writer’s name has been changed for confidentiality.

PAUSE + PRAY

  1. Pray for the needy and underprivileged in society who might be facing an even more difficult time during this season.
  2. Pray for those who serve them.
  3. For more prayer ideas, see our guide.