CAP regrets that the Health Ministry is still reported as having to take steps to close loopholes in the Fomema (Foreign Workers Medical Examination Monitoring Agency) screening mechanism to avoid negligence - after having utilised the agency’s services for a number of years.
In 2004 itself, Fomema was already in the spotlight, with the effectiveness of this agency being questioned with regards to achieving its original purpose of providing systematic and standardised medical examination of workers.
In 2005, it was reported that the services of more than a hundred clinics on the Fomema panel were suspended due to shoddy or questionable practices.
However, these errant clinics had not been reported to the Health Ministry for disciplinary action to be taken, and the then health minister, Chua Soi Lek, had to advise Fomema to report these clinics to the Malaysian Medical Council.
Some of the offences included operating X-ray machines without a licence, submitting the same X-ray for more than one worker, not keeping records of specimens collected, not maintaining a proper register of medical examinations.
All foreign workers entering the country are supposed to be screened by Fomema within a month of their arrival. The doctors and medical laboratories that are engaged to conduct medical examinations and tests must be reliable. Inaccurate findings can have potentially serious impacts on workers and the nation as a whole.
In view of the repeated shortfalls associated with the screening procedures for foreign workers, CAP calls on the Health Ministry to halt the use of Fomema’s services and let the medical screening of foreign workers come under the direct control of the ministry itself.
Foreign workers could be examined at special units set up within the government hospitals. If the services of private doctors are needed, special arrangements could be made.
The writer is president, Consumers Association of Penang.