Unmasking hidden health hazards with annual tests

PETALING JAYA: Health checks on foreign workers have to be done every year because some diseases may not present symptoms during screening but would only manifest later, says the Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency (Fomema).

Its CEO Dr Mohd Afiq Farhan Md Hanif said Fomema selects the diseases it screens for based on robust data analysis and the latest health guidelines.

“We continuously review and update our protocols in collaboration with the Health Ministry to ensure our screenings remain current and aligned with the evolving landscape of health risks,” he said.

“However, it is important to acknowledge that some diseases may not present symptoms at the time of screening,” he said when asked to comment on whether the screenings are thorough.

“Therefore, annual screenings are imperative to detect any latent or undetected diseases promptly,” he added.

Dr Afiq said yearly screenings are essential for early disease detection.

“These include documenting medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests for blood and urine, as well as a chest X-ray examination.

“Given the increasing threat of infectious diseases, we need to prioritise these measures, as they can have a significant impact on public health and national safety,” he said.

All foreign workers must undergo a comprehensive health screening at a Fomema panel clinic upon arrival in the country. After the third year, checks were done once every two years but Fomema has implemented yearly screening to align with the current health risk landscape.

Fomema collaborates with 3,100 panel clinics and 140 laboratories in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan to carry out these checks.

Only those who pass these screening can be given work permits,” he said, adding that those who failed could appeal.

“For conditions deemed appealable, additional tests and/or specialist assessments are required, as per the Appeal Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) approved by the Ministry of Health.

Among others, Dr Afiq said a foreign worker who fails a screening due to possible diabetes, could appeal.

The appeal process would require further diagnostic tests such as a Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) and a HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1C) test, along with a specialist assessment to confirm if the worker is diabetic,” he said.

If the test results fall within a normal range or a specialist deems the individual fit for work, the worker could be considered “suitable to work in Malaysia.”

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