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Thursday January 21, 2010

Fomema takes medical screening of foreign workers seriously

We refer to Dr BBak’s complaint “Bad experience with Fomema” (The Star, Jan 16).

May we firstly urge Dr BBak to contact our office (tel: 603-2094 6188) soonest as we are unable to verify the actual identity of the employer and the maid in question.

In the interim, we hope to clarify Fomema’s system and our efforts to put in place the most effective medical screening system possible in relation to foreign workers.

Fomema’s role is to detect communicable diseases among foreign workers and to minimise the burden on public health facilities due to foreign workers with chronic diseases needing extensive long-term treatment.

It must be noted that Fomema is tasked with conducting medical screening on foreign workers from a public health perspective, which in essence and practice is different from the diagnostic approach.

Our system was developed by experts in public health and is strictly monitored by the Health Ministry. It relies heavily on information technology to ensure the secure transmission, storage and analysis of medical data to minimise human error and prevent any possible unethical manipulation.

The end result is a system with multi-audit-and-control capabilities with features such as exceptional reporting, statistical analysis, data mining and quality, and compliance monitoring.

The other key component is its nationwide panel of medical service providers, which currently comprises some 3,800 doctors, 900 x-ray centres and 140 laboratories.

All of our medical service providers are issued with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which specify mandatory steps they are required to take to verify patient identity, ensure consistency and quality of medical procedures, ensure secure sample-handling and ensure secure record keeping.

To ensure compliance, Fomema has an Inspectorate Department that actively carries out surprise visits on its panel of clinics, x-ray centres and labs.

Besides the SOPs, Fomema in cooperation with the Malaysian Medical Association and the Health Ministry holds training seminars nationwide to improve the capability of its medical service providers with regard to the taking and reporting of chest x-rays.

These seminars are accredited by the Engineering Division of the Health Ministry as a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for the purpose of renewal of x-ray licence by x-ray centres.

We take this opportunity to highlight that Fomema panel doctors have a maximum of 10 working days from the date of medical examination to certify the suitability of a foreign worker for employment in Malaysia.

The panel doctors have to evaluate the results of the physical examination, chest x-ray and laboratory tests to decide on the certification of the foreign worker.

Fomema also requires its panel doctors to submit every x-ray film within two weeks of the examination to Fomema’s X-Ray Quality Control Centre (XQCC) in Kuala Lumpur. On average, the XQCC receives 90,000 to 100,000 x-ray films monthly and these films are reviewed for quality and accuracy of diagnosis by technical and medical experts.

This process usually takes around two weeks and any identified issues are resolved immediately with the respective doctor and subsequently all stakeholders are duly informed.

Approximately 10% of all x-ray films are also sent for further auditing by a panel of independent consultant radiologists.

Fomema statistics show that the vast majority of panel doctors adhere to the stipulated timeline.

Fomema’s data indicate that mis-reporting of x-ray films by panel doctors averages at 21 per 10,000 x-rays, or 0.021%. This compares very favourably with international best practices and is a testament to the professionalism and high quality of Malaysian doctors.

We further assure that non-compliance with our SOPs or mis-reporting by our medical service providers are liable to disciplinary actions, including instant suspension, notification to the health authorities, counselling and training.

We hope that our efforts as described above will reassure the Malaysian public that Fomema’s management is sincerely committed to rectify any weakness in Fomema’s internal and delivery systems.

DR MOHAMMED ALI ABU BAKAR,

Chief Executive Officer,

Pantai Fomema & Systems

Sdn Bhd.

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