Compulsory tests to weed out sick foreign workers


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 29 Jan 2003

By SA ’ODAH ELIAS

PUTRAJAYA: All foreign workers will have toundergo compulsory medical check-ups themoment they enter the country. 

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri AbdullahAhmad Badawi said the move was being intro-duced with immediate effect to prevent peoplefrom being infected by foreign workers suffering from communicable diseases. 

The new policy covers all migrant workersirrespective of country of origin. The medical examination will focus on major infectious diseases, including tuberculosis,(hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS. 

At present, foreign workers are required tohave a clean bill of health as certified by the relevant agency in their country and are only required to undergo another check-up here after being in the country for a year or on renewal of their contracts. 

Abdullah said the change in the policy wasnecessary because the problem of migrant workers found with infectious diseases, despite being certified healthy by their country, was getting serious. 

“We need to have this strict measure becausewe don’t have much confidence in the authenticity of the health certificates issued by the relevant agency in their own countries, and we don’t want people with dangerous diseases or any type of health problems to work here. 

“We want them to undergo check-up immediately upon their arrival so that theycan be sent back if they have any health problem before they infect our people,” he told reporters after chairing the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers meeting at the Home Ministry yesterday. 

Abdullah,who is also Home Minister, said the Government was taking this proactive measure as a protection against shoddy medical check-ups in the migrant workers’ country of origin. 

In the latest case, a 23-year-old Indonesian maid was admitted for typhoid at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre on Jan 10 after arriving in the country on Dec 26. 

The family employing her had to have their home fumigated and their stool samples taken for tests by health authorities. 

Health Ministry deputy director-general (public health)Datuk Dr Tee Ah Sian said on Saturday only between 5% and 10% of foreign workers were randomly subjected to blood and urine tests at the point of entry on arrival in Malaysia. 

The ministry had also pointed to the influx of migrant workers as a cause for the increase in the number of TB cases in the past few years. 

An average of 10% or 1,500 foreign workers screened were found to be suffering from TB.In the past five years about 6,000 ofthem had their work permit applications rejected because of the disease. 

The Government is also setting up an exchange centre for foreign workers in the construction industry to enable the authorities to track their movements while they are in the country. 

Abdullah said the construction industry hired the largest number of foreign workers, who would be required to register with the exchange centre that would be administered by the Public Works Department. 

He said if a worker had concluded his work at one project but his work permit had yet to expire, the centre would match him with other prospective employers who might require his skill until his permit expires. 

“This way,we will be able to know where a foreign worker is working all the time. Currently, the moment a project is completed, the foreign workers are released from their contract or are sent back irrespective of the remaining tenure of their work permit. 

“This causes problems because many who have been asked to go back did not do so and the moment they left their present employment, it becomes harder for the authorities to track their whereabouts,” he added. 

Abdullah also said foreign workers claiming to be skilled workers would also be required to have certificates verifying their specific skill from the relevant authority in their country of origin.

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