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On a mission to help Singapore's elderly
FOR Yeap Medical Supplies (YMS) Pte Ltd, business and charity work are not mutually exclusive. The distributor of medical devices in Singapore has managed to meld both worlds in the course of its work. Set up in 2000, YMS focuses on the needs of the geriatric population.
Managing director Victor Yeap says: "There was little fanfare and focus on this area of healthcare when we started. But now, we are fairly well-known as one of the key contributors to the nursing-home market."
As a vendor of products ranging from adult diapers to alcohol swabs for nursing homes, the company's raison d'etre are the elderly folks and being with them is a quotidian occurence.
Staff of YMS have become a fixture at nursing homes - which include Sunshine Welfare Action Mission and Sree Narayana Mission Home - not only on a professional level but also on a personal level.
The company has already been actively involved with nursing homes since its establishment, before corporate social responsibility (CSR) started hogging headlines in the media .
"Serving this market, we do visit them on a regular basis . . . We would give out ice cream to the elderly during festive seasons," says Mr Yeap.
YMS staff are active in the fundraisers and funfairs that voluntary welfare organisations organise.
"We do not just contribute cash. We have staff setting up booths at the funfair and being part of the activity," says Mr Yeap.
However, the firm faces budgetary constraints. "When we were a smaller organisation, it was easier to manage. But as the company became more well-known, we started getting more requests to participate in the activities."
Mr Yeap adds that there are always more requests than he can say yes to, so that is always a tough decision to make.
"A lot of the work we do is not quantifiable as we work with many organisations that administer funds for low-income families that need medical supplies. (After subsidies), a family in most cases pays 10 per cent of the value of the product. Hence, we need to go the extra mile to ensure that the patients get what they need. There are cases where the elderly pay you in coins or tell you they don't have enough money."
Mr Yeap also says that re-deliveries are part and parcel of the job as customers are sometimes uncontactable because they cannot afford a mobile phone. There are also occasions where the patient dies during their delivery rounds, and alternative logistical arrangements have to be made.
The firm, therefore, does not outsource the delivery aspect of the business to facilitate a smoother process.
YMS was awarded the tender to provide supplies for the Senior's Mobility Fund.
Mr Yeap explains that through the government grant, medical social workers will evaluate the needs of lower-income families and will purchase the medical supplies from companies such as YMS on behalf of the families, and the cost of the goods bought are subsidised.
Although the nature of the business is such that the staff interact with the geriatric population, YMS is involved in other social causes as well, many of which are recommended by the company's employees.
"A lot of the projects we support are in line with what the staff feel are worthy causes. If they feel that they are working for a company that also supports their causes, I think that works out well for everybody."
For instance, participating in Hair for Hope was something mooted by an employee. That led to close to 20 per cent of the 50 employees going under the razor while others provided moral support by turning up at the event.
YMS marketing and communications executive Taylor Soh says: "When I was looking out for new opportunities a couple of years ago, what drew me to Yeap Medical was their willingness to engage in CSR and look after the needs of the community. This community focus gave my work greater purpose rather than simply working from paycheck to paycheck. It also gave me the assurance that the company was forward thinking and was able to look beyond profit as a number and also as a means to better the community.
"From a marketing viewpoint, I am looking forward to how I can work with the management on building a suitable budget for CSR, and creating a better and more systematic infrastructure to become more proactive in how we review, audit and choose beneficiaries so we can ensure that we help create the best value from our contributions to the beneficiaries. I believe that this will deliver the best mutually beneficial partnership between YMS and our beneficiaries."
The firm is also a participant of the Yellow Ribbon Project and works with SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled. Mr Yeap says: "We employ staff who are ex-offenders and we have a colleague who is deaf. To me, the question is not 'Do we want to take the risk of doing that?' Rather, my question is, 'Is there a reason we shouldn't?'''
- This article is part of a series of stories on the business case for doing good. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as media partner. Visit www.companyofgood.sg for more information.