‘Govt should bear screening cost’

Thousand of foreign workers queueing up in social distance waiting to test for COVID 19 during lockdown at Pudu market area this morning.- Art Chen/The Star.

PETALING JAYA: The government should bear the cost of screening and treating foreign workers for Covid-19, say employers.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, however, said the contradictory statements from the government only caused confusion to industry players and the public, leaving many businesses wondering if they were liable to bear the cost.

“However, as far as hospitalisation for Covid-19 is concerned, it is now a disease recognised by Socso. So what does it mean?

“Do employers still pay? I don’t think so because Socso takes over the cost.

“However, these are fundamental things that policymakers fail to take note of and realise,” he said.

Shamsuddin said screening was under Socso’s obligation for both local and foreign workers.

“But maybe the other cost, such as disinfecting the organisation’s premises if there are cases, can be borne by employers,” he said.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai welcomed the government’s decision to make it compulsory to test foreign workers.

“The testing of foreign workers is important given the recent spike in Covid-19 positive cases among foreign workers in Ampang, which could give rise to new Covid-19 virus clusters.

“As such, we are of the view that the screening cost should be borne by the government, especially for undocumented workers,” he said.

On the responsibility of employers footing the bill for medical treatment of employees infected by Covid-19, he said he was made to understand that the cost of treatment would be borne by the government.

“This is because the cases have to be immediately sent to specific government hospitals which have been designated as Covid-19 centres and this would also cover foreign workers,” he said.

He noted that it was mandatory for all foreign workers to be covered under the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Scheme (SKHPPA).

“In this regard, any fee or cost relating to treatment and hospitalisation could also be covered under this insurance coverage which covers admission to any non-corporatised government hospitals,” he said.

SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang believes there is some misunderstanding over the question of who is responsible for the cost of treating employees.

Kang said treatment for Covid-19 could only be done at government hospitals while the testing could be done at both private and public hospitals.

“If you are registered with Socso, then it will bear the cost of the testing.

“If they aren’t covered under Socso, then the employers would need to check with their medical insurance to see if the testing is covered,” he said when contacted.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Datuk Seri Garry Chua said there was some ambiguity over who was responsible for the cost of medical treatment for foreign workers infected by the virus.

“I sought clarification from a senior officer over this as private hospitals will not treat those infected with Covid-19 as they can only get treatment at a government-designated hospital.

“I was told that the workers must be treated at government hospitals at a nominal cost,” he said when contacted.

“In such a case, employers will be willing to foot the bill if it is at a nominal cost.”

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president T. Muthusamy noted that employers contributed to the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Scheme and suggested that this could be used for treating foreign workers.It was reported that all foreign workers must go through Covid-19 tests, with the employers bearing the cost.

The announcement by the government came amid concerns that the number of Covid-19 cases, particularly among foreign workers, is on the rise.

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