Singapore

Mum with cancer loses subsidies for raising funds

Single mum 'assessed to have sufficient savings'

A single mother with cancer has been cut off from medical and social assistance subsidy schemes after raising $900,000 in donations.

Ms Tam Chek Ming, 46, is the first publicly known case to have financial aid terminated due to being able to raise funds on her own.

This comes at a time when individual appeals online have garnered up to six-figure sums in donations.

While Ms Tam managed to raise funds online, social workers said people caught in financial emergencies should still turn to government aid schemes first, and warned that crowdfunding has its risks for donors and fund-raisers.

Ms Tam learnt in 2015 that she had ovarian cancer. Despite chemotherapy, her cancer progressed from Stage 1 to 4. For the past two years, her medical bills were subsidised by Medifund, a social safety net to help poor Singaporeans pay for medical treatment - specifically those unable to pay their bills even after subsidies, insurance, Medisave and cash payments.

Ms Tam also made crowdfunding appeals - one in April last year and another this April - saying she had to fight her cancer to stay alive for her five-year-old son.

She went on crowdfunding pages Give.asia and Generosity and has raised $771,692 and US$80,047 (S$109,000) respectively so far.

In May, a Medifund committee from the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore, where she was receiving treatment, examined her access to Medifund as part of a regular review and subsidies were stopped last month.

A spokesman for the institute told The Straits Times: "The committee assessed that Ms Tam no longer needed to rely on Medifund assistance for her medical bills based on her current financial resources; and that Medifund amount can be used to help other patients with more immediate needs."

She used to be on Comcare, a national aid scheme for those with low income, for three months from November last year but did not return to renew her assistance in January.

A second application in May this year was rejected "as she was assessed to have sufficient savings", said a spokesman from the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which oversees the scheme.

Ms Tam declined to comment. In her posts on crowdfunding pages, she had said she sold off all she could sell in her two-room flat and skipped meals so her son could eat.

She also said the immunotherapy she needed was not covered by Medifund or other schemes. Generally, a dose is required every 21 days and costs about $6,000.

Social service experts ST spoke to said the Government made the right move to stop her financial aid, so help can be given to others. They also said if her donations are used up and she needs more money again, she can reapply for subsidies.

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MEDIFUNDcrowdsourcingMINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT (MSF)