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Labatt to hold more talks on mandatory health checks for FDHs

09 January 2019

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre

By Daisy CL Mandap

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre is set to consult Filipino community leaders on Jan. 20 on his plan to require pre-employment health checks for Filipino domestic helpers, in the wake of concern his initial advisory implementing the move could lead to confusion and problems for the workers.

Labatt dela Torre had originally set the start date of implementing the new rule on Feb. 15, but decided to hold further consultations because of concerns raised by affected parties, especially migrant leaders.

One of them, Eman Villanueva of Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong said the “fit to work” requirement in the original plan could lead to many longtime domestic workers losing their jobs if their employers are spooked by any abnormal readings in their medical tests.



He also expressed fear employment agencies would use this as a way to make extra money from either the worker or the employer.

In an advisory sent out to employment agencies and some migrant leaders on Jan. 8, Labatt dela Torre said the mandatory check-up would cover all Filipino household workers, whether new arrivals, re-contracts, or signing up with a new employer.



Apart from producing a “fit to work” certificate, all workers should also show proof that they have medical insurance coverage.

The advisory also said the basic pre-employment check-up covers “physical examination, chest x-ray, stool exam, urine exam, blood test (complete blood count, hepatitis B, sugar, cholesterol, triglyceride, uric acid, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine).”



But on being told of the workers’ concerns, Labatt dela Torre immediately put the advisory on hold.

“I have signed (another) advisory that the medical test requirement has been held in abeyance until further consultations have been done,” he said in a message.

He also said he had met separately with employment agency representatives and they agreed that the advisory needed some “fine-tuning”.



After the Filcom leaders meeting, set when he returns from a vacation and emergency leave, dela Torre said he would consult with the agencies again before finalizing his decision.

In his upcoming meeting with community leaders, the labor chief said he intends to ask if a “fit to work” certification should be required for the processing of contracts, and if yes, what is the extent of the medical tests that should be required.



Another issue is whether POLO should accredit medical clinics in Hong Kong for ease of compliance with the requirement.
The free HealthWise checks for OFWs showed 'disturbing' results

Labatt dela Torre decided to impose the mandatory checks after seeing “disturbing results” in the free HealthWise medical examination his office has been offering to all Filipino migrant workers since November last year.

The tests reportedly showed that of the first 1,441 workers who availed of the service, 14% were found to be pre-diabetic, while 7.63% were confirmed diabetics. This was said to be higher than the Philippine prevalence rate among adults of 6.2%.

The same tests showed 11.24% had elevated blood pressure levels and 17% were hypertensive. More disturbing, 2.5% had critical blood pressure levels, and they were advised to immediately seek treatment.

Initially, he asked the Hong Kong government to impose the mandatory medical check-ups for migrant workers, but when no response appeared forthcoming, he decided to go it alone.

Social media comments by Filipinos on his plan were overwhelmingly in favor, with many citing Singapore’s requirement of an annual medical check-up for all migrant workers a good example.

The Indonesian government is also cited for requiring proof of medical insurance coverage for each worker who applies for a new employment contract to be processed in Hong Kong.

But it would appear not many of those who supported Labatt’s move were prepared for the extensive tests he had in mind for them.


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