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Labatt pushes for regular medical tests for OFWs in Hong Kong

03 January 2019

One of those who availed of free health tests gets advice. Those who showed abnormal readings of protein, blood glucose, pH, and ascetic acid have reportedly been put on a “watchlist” for further monitoring and education.

By Daisy CL Mandap

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre has called on the Hong Kong government to require medical checkups for migrant workers who get signed up for new contracts by local employers.

The call comes in the wake of what Labatt dela Torre calls as the “scary” results from Project HealthWise, the free basic medical checkup for overseas Filipino workers which he introduced in early November in response to a worrying spike in the number of Filipino migrant workers contracting cancer or other serious ailments while at work in Hong Kong.

De la Torre revealed that statistics compiled by his office show that of the 1,441 Filipino migrants who underwent blood glucose testing, 14% were found to be pre-diabetic, while 7.63% were confirmed diabetics. This, he said was higher than the Philippine prevalence rate among adults of 6.2%.

“On the other hand, out of the 1,645 who underwent blood pressure measurement, 11.24% had elevated blood pressure levels, 17% were hypertensive and 2.5% had critical blood pressure levels, who were advised to immediately seek treatment or proceed to the hospital,”  he said.

Those who showed abnormal readings of protein, blood glucose, pH, and ascetic acid have reportedly been put on a “watchlist” for further monitoring and education.

On top of this initiative, Labatt dela Torre would like the Hong Kong government to make medical check-up a requirement for all migrants about to take up domestic employment here, whether as first-timers,  returning workers, or re-contracts.

However, he said there is no concrete plan yet on how this could be enforced, or who should bear the cost, or whether it will be on a per-contract of per-two –year basis. “We are still pushing this agenda to the Hong Kong government,” he said.

While the long-term effects of a periodic health examination for migrant workers could benefit both the employer and the worker in the long run, the mechanics of enforcing such a plan could be problematic. The standard employment contract for foreign domestic helpers might have to be revised again, less than two years after it was amended to include a ban on dangerous window cleaning by workers.  Or, a law could be passed to make this happen, but this could take an even longer time.

Still, the idea is not so far-fetched, as the Singapore government has been enforcing such a rule for its imported labor for years. Also, the need to get migrant workers in Hong Kong tested for possible health issues seem greater now than ever before.

Welfare officer Virsie Tamayao noted in an earlier interview that the number of Filipino domestic workers getting sick here of cancer appears to be on the rise, and that they appear to be more concentrated in Hong Kong than in more stress-filled destinations like the Middle East,  where she used to be posted.

In many of the cases, the disease was diagnosed at a late stage, making it more difficult to treat.

This was the phenomenon that prompted Labatt dela Torre to come up with Project HealthWise.

“Most of the time, it is preventable,” he said in an interview ahead of the project launch.. “That’s why it is important that our workers get regular check-ups so they can avoid getting sick.”

All bona fide OFWs can avail of the free health checks daily except Friday at the Polo offices on the 18th floor of Mass Mutual Tower at 33 Lockhart Road, Wanchai.

The check-ups offered consist of vital signs, blood glucose, urine, uric acid, HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis checks. Volunteer nurses also provide breast self-examination tips.


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