Thursday October 13, 2011
The disabled could do with more help
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
LAST Friday’s Budget 2012 may have put a smile on many people’s faces. However, not everyone was ecstatic about it and for good reason, too. Take the case of Chong Tuck Meng who hails from Bentong, Pahang.
“I was never really interested in the national budget until I became a wheelchair user following a motorcycle accident 29 years ago,” said the 50-year-old tetraplegic who is a founder member and adviser of Perwira K9 Malaysia, a national disability organisation that supports people with spinal cord injuries.
“The first lesson that I learnt: it is extremely difficult being a disabled person in Malaysia. There are numerous social obstacles and hefty medical bills to contend with.
“I slowly discovered that national budgets can help to alleviate the struggles and hardships that Malaysians with disabilities go through every day.”
Chong wishes the latest budget had specifically addressed the issues he has to deal with after he became paralysed from the neck down.
“The accident changed my life completely. I was a very independent person. Now I need help in coping with daily activities. I need a full-time caregiver by my side to give me a glass of water whenever I am thirsty, and feed me my meals.
“I also need to be turned on my bed every four hours to prevent bedsores. I have to be carried to my wheelchair for my baths and back again. Wounds caused by sitting too long in my wheelchair also need to be dressed daily.”
The operations, cost of medication and services of a full-time care-giver have taken a heavy toll on Chong’s finances.
Though free medical checkups are available for the disabled in government hospitals, many of the medications are not available, and have to be purchased from the pharmacy.
“Getting to the hospital is another obstacle. I have to pay RM200 for a trip to Kuala Lumpur for follow-ups with my specialist,” says Chong.
“Many government dental clinics are not located on the ground floor. This makes access difficult. So I have no choice but to go to a private dental clinic and pay a bomb for their services.
“The Government should identify those who really need help and ensure they are provided with all the medicine they need,” Chong points out. “Hospitals should arrange for home visits by dedicated nurses.”
Chong says he is grateful to his mum for looking after him when he became disabled.
“My mum is 80 and can no longer take care of me. I had to raise RM6,000 to pay for an Indonesian maid as a caregiver. Unfortunately she ran away after two months and I was told to pay another RM6,000 for a replacement maid.
“It took me months to raise the money and it was gone in just two months. We are at the losing end. How are we to manage in such a situation? Why can’t our Government help us in this area? Even politicians have personal assistants, what more we?” laments Chong.
Chong pointed out that in the United States, the government provides the profoundly disabled with caregivers who are called “personal attendants”. For those who need 24-hour care, they are provided with a helper during the day, and another helper at night.
Chong feels a national budget can help in situations like his if the Government:
> Does not impose a levy on maids employed by Malaysians with disabilities.
> Subsidises the salary of maids for the disabled, or better still, pay for the maid’s full salary.
> Helps the disabled to get a replacement for maids who run away, without additional cost.
> Gives RM500 in monthly aid to all persons with disabilities.
Chong feels that even though the latest budget may have missed these pertinent issues, it is never too late to reach out to the disabled.
“When there is a political will to do something, there will always be a way!” Chong adds.