SUMMER'S AND COVID-19
This decision was a tough but also an easy one (regardless of the COVID-19 bill).
We are a small enterprise; for every session we cancel, our revenue suffers. Our services come under 'healthcare' and we are not centre-based. We could have argued to be 'essential' services and we do not have a physical centre to 'close shop'. We also know of therapy companies who are still operating, by shifting all sessions to home-based; nobody will know because they are just going into the homes. However, why did Summer's make the decision to stop all sessions? What were our considerations?
The Spirit of Social Distancing
The COVID-19 situation started escalating towards the end of March; there were more local clusters. I worry for my staff members. I put in several extra precautionary measures, including personal drivers. I fear for their well-being because they travel a lot throughout the day and they stay out in cafes and malls for meals everyday (And now, if our services had continued, our poor staff members will have no where to eat their lunch and rest!).
Soon after our extra measures, the Singapore government indicated that research has shown that people can be asymptomatic and be silent carriers. I started worrying for our children and their families. Should any of our staff member become affected but yet asymptomatic, we could be the best COVID-19 spreader as we go to at least four homes a day. In addition, the children we work with have special needs and many of them have difficulty expressing themselves. Should they fall ill, they would not be able to inform others. Should they be hospitalised, they would not be able to do without a caregiver by their side. Should the medically-frail ones be infected, their health would deteriorate fast.
One of the latest advice for this circuit breaker time is "DO NOT visit other families, even if it is your extended family who are just a few blocks away. Stay within your household". Does it NOT make sense that we, the therapists, should NOT be visiting our clients' homes as well?
Business to Continue if Telecommuting is Possible; if not, Companies to be Closed
During the circuit breaker period, one of the measures is "Business that can run with employees working from home via telecommuting should continue. But if they can't, they must be closed." Being a home-based company, we travel from house to house; we see up to four children a day, i.e. we make at least five road trips a day, including commuting from and back home. We make many more trips than the usual workers. We take the public transport, we take Grabcars and taxis. Although from 1 April, we have engaged personal drivers, we still have to be on the road. We cannot telecommute. As such, '(business) must be closed.'
Healthcare is an 'Essential Service' but...
Summer's Therapy Services Pte. Ltd. is registered as a 'healthcare' company; to continue operating, we could have argued that we are an essential service, i.e. if we stop our therapy sessions, our children's health and well-being could potentially be threatened. This could have justified our continuation of services. Some parents have brought up concerns for their child's progress during this period of time as well.
Besides that, we are a pure home-based company, so even if we are not an 'essential service', we could have argued that we do not need to 'close shop' and stop operations like other therapy centers because we do not have a shop to close. Some parents told us that for their other therapies, sessions have been moved from centre-based to home-based. Also, their usual home-based therapies, such as ABA therapy, are continuing, because nobody will know that they have not 'closed shop', nobody will know that work is still continuing.
However, even if Summer's is indeed considered as an 'essential' service and allowed to operate, we will not be able to implement the additional measures of safe distancing at our 'workplace'. There is no way we can minimise physical interactions; our children love sitting on our laps, holding our hands and giving us big hugs!
I also wish parents can think about whether 'therapy services' are 'essential' in the midst of a pandemic and who they are inviting into their houses, to interact closely with their little ones. We can never be sure who the therapist(s) have come into close contact with, either at home, on public transport while traveling around or with other children and their families. They do not just come into your house as 'one person'. They come as a person who has been to many other houses, who have travelled on public transport, and who have had lunch at some 'unknown' place. The therapists might be able to change their clothes and wash their hands as extra measures, but they cannot know if they are one of the asymptomatic carriers and of course, they cannot 'wash away' the virus should they be a silent carrier.
With all the measures to practice 'social distancing', 'not visiting others', 'remain in your house', 'if close contact is needed, wear a mask', 'safe distancing', 'face-to-face tuition... will be put on hold', it seems unethical for us to continue business, regardless of us being an essential service or not. I need to protect both the children and their families as well as my staff members!
Having considered all the above, it was an easy decision for us to stop all our sessions during the circuit breaker period. Yes, we will suffer a revenue loss. Yes, we do not have very deep pockets as a small enterprise. Yes, we may need to cut our pays and sacrifice our increments and bonuses. But doing what is right and what is ethical is more important now. To protect our children and families. To protect our staff members. To protect Singapore. To do our small part to get out of this together. #SGUnited #COVID-19
Stay safe! Be well! 😀💪 See you all on 5 May!
Oh! A piece of good news is... we are offering Teletherapy*!
- Research has shown that not all children are suitable for teletherapy, as such, some teletherapy sessions involve consultations with parents.
- Teletherapy is offered at a discounted price - to share the load with the families.