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TTSH worker has not gone back to Philippines to visit family for 2 years amid Covid-19

SINGAPORE – For two years, Mrs Maala Maria Antonnette has not gone back to the Philippines to see her family.

In July last year, her husband had open-heart surgery in the Philippines. Then, in May this year, his mother died from Covid-19. Mrs Maria, 47, had to mourn for her mother-in-law through video calls.

Mrs Maria is an assistant supervisor at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s (TTSH) food and beverage services. Before Covid-19, she managed inpatient meal service operations. Her team of 10 was responsible for coordinating around 4,500 inpatient meals a day.

But since the pandemic began, her job scope and responsibilities have expanded.

She said: “Aside from managing inpatient meals, we also coordinate with external vendors to provide about 1,200 daily meals to staff working at TTSH and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.”

Mrs Maria said these staff meals are for those on duty and unable to purchase meals due to time or operational constraints.

At the height of the pandemic and during last year’s circuit breaker in April and May, Mrs Maria found herself working 12-hour shifts. “We had to support all the healthcare workers who were working into the night to tend to Covid-19 patients,” she told The Straits Times.

While things settled down in the first half of the year, there was a 75 per cent increase in the number of requests for staff meals in the general wards and outbreak wards from July to October.

“We have certainly gotten busier since cases surged. When we receive additional staff meal order requests, we have to keep vendors updated and coordinate the changes,” Mrs Maria said.

Even though her workload has increased, her motivation continues to be her family.

She video-calls her husband, 48, who works as a graphic artist, and their two daughters, aged 20 and 22, every night before bed and every morning before heading to work.

“Emotionally, I am trying to be stable and I am trying to be strong. I can’t tell my girls I miss them so much because I need to be strong for them,” she said.

The last time Mrs Maria took leave was in December 2019, when she flew back to the Philippines to visit her family.

But as the fight against the pandemic rages on, the last thing on her mind is taking a break.

She said: “I can’t think about clearing leave at this point. I am proud of the work I do, and I need to make sure everything is settled here before going back home to see my family.”

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