Jurong dorm residents allege neglect, lack of medical care

Riot police deployed as workers confront management over Covid-19 outbreak, MOM investigates claims

Reports of chaos and unrest have emerged at a newly built foreign worker dormitory in Jurong, with residents alleging poor living conditions and a lack of timely access to medical help for Covid-19.

Photos and videos of workers at the Westlite Jalan Tukang dorm voicing their frustrations with how they are being treated have been uploaded on multiple online platforms since Tuesday.

Workers there said they were not given proper access to medical support, and not properly isolated.

About a quarter of the 2,000 workers staying in the dorm have reportedly tested positive for Covid-19, workers told a WeChat-based news portal.

But Sembcorp Marine, which employs a large number of the workers, and the dorm's operator Westlite Accommodation said yesterday that the dorm has been observing Covid-19 protocols.

The situation reached a tipping point on Wednesday, when residents gathered en masse to confront the dormitory's management.

Riot police were called in that afternoon.

Jurong dorm residents allege neglect, lack of medical care
Riot police were called in at about 1pm and deployed at least four vehicles from the Special Operations Command. PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

A resident who wanted to be known only as Mr Ren, 41, told The Straits Times that residents have been frustrated with the lack of medical assistance.

"(The dormitory management) does not care about those who are sick - these men had been sick for about seven or eight days," he said.

"Their fever had gotten very high, and we had to make noise about it before anything was done."

He added that the situation escalated when residents confronted the management. Although there were raised voices, the workers did not resort to violence, he said.

The police were called in at about 1pm and deployed at least four vehicles from the Special Operations Command.

One video showed the workers shouting as riot police formed up just outside the dorm entrance.

ST understands that the dorm residents are of different nationalities, but had banded together to voice their frustrations.

Aside from a lack of timely medical support, they also claimed poor living conditions, and that they were given food that had worms or had gone bad.

Some workers had threatened to quit because of how they were being treated. Mr Ren said he has since resigned and just wants to go home.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Wednesday it was aware of allegations of a breach of healthcare protocols, lack of access to medical support and poor food quality at the dorm.

Its preliminary investigations found delays in transferring workers who had contracted Covid-19 to the appropriate facilities.

"We are working on transferring those who require further medical care to the appropriate healthcare facilities for treatment," said an MOM spokesman.

However, a spokesman for Sembcorp Marine claimed its employees may not have been fully aware of the current protocols.

About 1,400 of the 3,420 beds at the dorm are occupied by workers from Sembcorp Marine, according to Westlite Accommodation.

"The company understands that Westlite is following the mandatory Covid-19 health testing and movement protocols," said the Sembcorp Marine spokesman.

"The company is mindful that the current protocols in Singapore may not be apparent to the residents in the Tukang dorm, and may differ from Covid-19 management measures from their home country."

Sembcorp Marine has also issued reminders to the caterer on strict adherence to hygiene standards, he added.

The company did not address the issues raised by the workers, such as why they were not isolated and taken to the relevant facilities immediately upon testing positive, as is the stated protocol.

Westlite Accommodation said it had adhered to prevailing Covid-19 protocols at its Jalan Tukang dorm, but acknowledged delays in moving affected workers to the appropriate facilities due to a recent spike in cases.

Westlite added that it has been working closely with MOM to deal with the issue.