Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blaming migrants is easy to cover-up failings of Malaysian government for the rise of TB in Malaysia

It is nonsense to suggest that migrant workers is the cause of increase of TB and other diseases in Malaysia. 

There is so much movement of people in and out of Malaysia, and this includes Malaysians and foreigners(tourists, etc) - and really allegations against migrant workers(foreign workers) must be based not just on numbers of infected but also the source/cause of infections.


When migrant workers enter Malaysia, they are disease-free and this is because unlike local workers, migrant workers have to undergo compulsory medical screening before they even enter Malaysia - this is an obligation placed on employers of migrant workers. And then there is the 2nd screening that happens in Malaysia.
"Foreign workers wishing to work in this country must undergo two health screenings, one in the country of their origin and the other in Malaysia, before they are issued with a working visa," - Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Hilmi Yahaya
Hence, if the migrant worker subsequently contracts TB or some other disease, then it the fault of the employer and also the Malaysian government. In fact, these diseases MUST be now classified as occupational disease and the migrant worker should be adequately compensated - sufficient to cover the treatment, and also the loss of earning opportunity when his employment period in Malaysia is suddenly shortened.

The Deputy Minister says that many migrant workers who 'passed' the medical screening in their home country and fails it in Malaysia(before they even start working in Malaysia). It must be the employer of migrant workers(and/or their 'recruiting agents' that must be blamed. This can only happen if there is 'corruption' or some other irregularities. I do not believe the doctors and the medical services in these countries are incompetent or 'ill-equipped' to carry out proper medical screening. The question is what is Malaysia doing about these doctors and medical screening facilities in the country of origin that wrongly gave these migrant workers a clean bill of health? Are they being 'blacklisted'? Are the agents and the employers being blacklisted, or persecuted in Malaysia and/or the sending country?

Diseases spread is also linked to living and working conditions - Malaysia still do not have a guideline to ensure safe and healthy living accomodation for migrant workers. Remember migrant worker accomodation is most of the time provided by the employers - and we have heard about cramped dirty living conditions, including also workers being forced in factories and workplaces. Why is the Minimum Standard of Housing of migrants still not defined by law? Many migrants get infected because of these living/working conditions in Malaysia. It really is not migrants bringing in diseases in most cases - but Malaysia infecting healthy migrant workers.

When migrant workers are brought in, they should already be certified healthy with none of these communicable disease. Anyway, Malaysia insists of a 2nd health screening - but where are these workers placed pending this screening? Are they being placed together with healthy workers already working in Malaysia?

The report tells us that the number of reported TB cases in Malaysia has risen to 20,000 in 2011 compared to 18,000 in 2010. So, there are 2,000 new cases? or is there 20,000 new cases? These new cases are Malaysians or foreigners? How many foreigners? How many Malaysians? [Or are you  including the migrant workers detected with TB during the 2nd screening in Malaysia which were not detected in the first screening?]

The report also says that 20,000 out of 30,000 brought in failed the medical screening conducted in Malaysia - this is very serious. Maybe, Malaysian government and government of the sending country must ensure that screening in the country of origin is done properly and efficiently so much so no need to waste money with a 2nd screening here in Malaysia. Note, this figures really is not only about TB.... How many people were detected with TB during the 2nd screening before they started work in Malaysia - this is what we want to know.

We also want to know how many healthy migrant workers caught TB after they started working in Malaysia? Has it got anything to do with the poor living/working conditions that they are subjected to? From whom did they contract TB - from other migrant workers or some Malaysians?

Did people sitting besides those with TB in flights, buses and trains contract TB? Did Malaysians traveling abroad come back infected with TB? 

From the news report, the allegations made against migrant workers looks as if it is biased, and certainly not substantiated with scientific facts and evidence.

The consequence is on migrant workers...who will be repatriated back home. What about those employers that provided unhealthy living/working conditions that resulted in healthy migrant workers being infected with TB? What about those responsible for medical screening who by reason of 'corruption' declared the migrant worker to be healthy? The responsibility should be placed on employers - be it the fault of their recruiting agents or the medical facilities they used to screen workers?

Malaysia is moving towards a G2G (government to government) method of recruiting and bringing in foreign workers - and if so, then it is and must be the government of Malaysia (and the government of the sending country) who is to be blamed if this was the system used to bring in migrant workers for employers in Malaysia. 

Either way, all involved in the bringing of migrants are persons licensed/authorised by governments and that includes the medical screening bodies - so it must be the Malaysian government (and/or the government of the sending country) that ultimately is to be blamed.

The migrant worker(or the foreigner) is the poor victim of injustice, who had present is not even compensated for the wrongdoings of employers and governments.

Migrant workers (and foreigners) in Malaysia live amongst Malaysians, and as such their health and access to healthcare is essential to ensure a healthy Malaysia. The charging of high registration medical fees  and 1st class rates on foreigners only deter them from getting required healthcare because 'too expensive' - and this certainly will impact on the general health of all in Malaysia. Malaysia really should provide FREE universal healthcare that is easily accessible to all if we want to maintain a healthy Malaysia.

House migrant workers in proper housing facilities. Limit the number of migrants in a 2 room appartment/house to no more than 6. We need a law on Minimum Standards of Housing for Workers that will apply to all migrant workers - maybe not for those in the construction industry.[Now, migrant workers generally are not permitted to rent their own rooms and houses - but are compelled to stay in the premises provided/determined by their employers, and many also end up paying way above market rate for these accommodations]. Remember that migrants are also human beings...

Published: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 6:11:00 PM
Updated: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 6:31:15 PM

Foreign workers blamed for rise in TB cases

LABUAN: The influx of foreign workers is among the major reasons for the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in the country.

Based on statistics, about 18,000 cases were reported in 2010, rising to 20,000 in 2011 with 1,600 fatalities.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Hilmi Yahaya said efforts to monitor the spread of the disease had been enhanced with foreign workers being required to undergo mandatory health screenings.

He said that out of 30,000 foreign workers brought into the country, 20,000 had failed the health screening carried out by the ministry.  

Dr Hilmi Yahaya
Datuk Dr Hilmi Yahaya 

"Foreign workers wishing to work in this country must undergo two health screenings, one in the country of their origin and the other in Malaysia, before they are issued with a working visa," he told reporters after a one-day working visit to Labuan Sunday.

Dr Hilmi also said there were foreign workers who had passed the health screening carried out at home but failed the test here. Most of these workers were from Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Philippines. 

He said foreign workers who failed the health screening here would be repatriated home. -Bernama - The Star Online, 29/12/2013, Foreign workers blamed for rise in TB cases

No comments: