Materia Medica Malaysiana

January 28, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 1:16 pm

EDITORIAL: One year is too long

IT is no longer news that many foreign workers are a health hazard because they suffer from communicable diseases.
More than 10 years ago, the Health authorities were already ringing the alarm bells because migrant labour had been identified as a major factor for the rising incidence of infectious diseases such as TB and leprosy which had once been brought under control and almost eradicated.
The fact that the health of foreign workers – or rather, their lack of health – has made the news again and again since then shows the lack of progress in efforts to ensure that only healthy workers enter the country.
Fomema reported in 1998 that more than 16,000 foreign workers were found to be unfit compared to more than 18,500 last year. Admittedly, the percentage had dropped from 3.8 per cent of the migrant labour population in 1998 to 2.6 per cent in 2004.
Nevertheless, the undiminished size of the foreign worker population which has been certified unfit for work every year was worrying enough for the Cabinet Committee on Health and Cleanliness to decide in October last year that a more stringent health screening in the form of a mandatory medical check-up a month after their arrival was needed.
However, it was clear from what was said by the Health Ministry parliamentary secretary on Tuesday that this has turned out to be nothing more than a “proposal” that needed to be “studied” before a decision was made. In the meantime, Fomema has suggested a medical examination “upon arrival” rather than after one month.
It is hoped that the Government does not allow these ideas to incubate for too long. Whether it is one month after arrival or upon arrival, it is clear that the present compulsory medical check-up one year after entry is unsatisfactory and inadequate and has to be changed.

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