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ConGen says health check-ups for OFWs to be taken up with HK govt

18 January 2019

Congen Morales spoke on sidelines of PAHK induction

By Daisy CL Mandap

There is no final decision yet on the planned mandatory pre-employment health check-ups for Filipino domestic workers.

This was what Consul General Antonio A. Morales said on Jan 17, after he inducted into office the new members of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Association of Hong Kong.

ConGen Morales said the matter of requiring regular medical check-ups for Filipino domestic workers will have to be taken up at the next regular technical working group meeting with Hong Kong officials.

“There should also be consultations with members of the Filipino community first,” he said.

The country’s top diplomat said he was surprised himself when he saw the advisory from Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre informing accredited employment agencies that the mandatory health check-ups would take effect from Feb. 15.

Labatt dela Torre has since put the plan on hold on being told of concerns from various migrant workers’ groups, and called for a consultation meeting on Sunday, Jan. 20.

But this has not deterred the militant migrant organization, United Filipinos – Migrante Hong Kong, to call a protest on Jan 27 to denounce the plan as endangering the work of Filipino migrants.

Dela Torre’s advisory required both a medical insurance and a “fit to work” certificate for all Filipino domestic workers applying to process new work contracts starting Feb. 15.

The requirement would have covered all Filipino household workers, whether new arrivals, re-contracts, or signing up with a new employer.

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).”

Unifil-Migrante’s Eman Villanueva was among the first to hit out at the plan, saying the “fit to work” requirement could lead to many longtime domestic workers losing their jobs if their medical tests show even the slightest abnormality.

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

In his upcoming dialogue with Filcom leaders, Labatt dela Torre said he would 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.

He decided to impose the mandatory checks after seeing alarming results in the free HealthWise medical examination his office has been offering to all Filipino migrant workers since November last year.

These included a higher-than-average percentage of workers who are pre-diabetic or confirmed diabetics, and have high blood pressure or are hypertensive.

Social media comments by Filipinos on his plan have been mostly in favor of periodic medical check-ups for domestic workers, but say this should not be made a requirement when processing a new work contract.

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