MoH eyes improved medical screenings for foreign workers

National 2 minutes, 55 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Ministry of Health (MoH) is currently reviewing and identifying ways to improve the process of medical screenings for foreign workers, after several employment agencies voiced concerns on current health tests.

In addressing the issues, the Health Ministry held a dialogue session with relevant stakeholders to share views and suggestions on better ways to further improve the current public health services, particularly medical screenings for foreign workers in the sultanate.

More than 50 local employment agencies participated in the dialogue session, chaired by Dr Hjh Maslina Hj Mohsin, deputy permanent secretary of professional and technical at MoH.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, Suriawaty Hj A Hamid, who runs a local employment agency, said the Health Ministry should offer a pre-employment health screening service that includes blood checks for infectious diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and Hepatitis.

“In Brunei, when foreign workers go for blood screenings, checks for Hepatitis is not included and this is not something to be taken lightly,” said Suriawaty, requesting for blood checks on infectious disease to be made compulsory in medical screenings.

“We don’t mind paying a little more, as long as we know that these foreign workers we’ve employed are disease free and fit to work in people’s home,” she said.

Suriawaty said there was one case where a foreign worker hired from her agency had Hepatitis B but she only found out that she was a carrier after infecting her employer’s child.

Also present at the dialogue session yesterday was Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Hj Awang Ahmad Morshidi Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Diraja Dato Laila Utama Hj Awang Abdul Rahman.

He suggested for medical examinations on foreign workers to be handled more efficiently by requiring foreign workers to register in a database similar to the Bru-HIMS system so their health can be tracked better, before they are certified for employment in Brunei.

“An online system like BruHIMS should be implemented for foreign workers, where all their details including home address can be found. With this, foreign worker’s health can be easily monitored and blood checks can be done easily. If they are found to be disease-free then they can be transferred to BruHIMS, if not they can be discarded as they are not fit to work,” he explained.

YB Hj Awang Ahmad Morshidi added that it will be easier for MoH to keep track on the health status of foreign workers, as compilation of statistics can be done more efficiently.

“From the system it will be able to show the common types of diseases that come from a specific country, whether one is infected with HIV, tuberculosis or Hepatitis B,” he said, adding that it is cost-effective and economical for Brunei.

Another owner of an employment agency, Pg Roddey Pg Hamdan, also called for a compulsory and thorough medical screening system for newly arrived foreign workers.

Recounting his experience, Pg Roddey said he took in a foreign worker once who unknowingly was a Hepatitis B carrier.

“Only when I inquired then I realise Hepatitis B is not part of a foreign worker’s health screening checklist,” he said.

“Shouldn’t Hepatitis B be made part of the health screening checklist, considering the consequences of transmission? Life is at stake and we must not take this for granted,” he said.

Also present during yesterday’s dialogue session was Permanent Secretary of MoH Hj Zakaria Hj Serudin, representatives from the Labour Department and the Immigration and National Registration.

The Brunei Times