POLO eyes more health exams for FDHs

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The Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wan Chai

THE Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is studying a proposal to require mandatory pre-employment health check-ups for Filipino domestic workers renewing their contracts or transferring to a new employer.

Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre said the proposal was meant to ensure that Filipino migrants remain healthy after the spate of overseas Filipino workers dying after having a stroke last year.

“We are still reviewing this policy because there are concerns that this might lead to terminations,” Dela Torre said in an interview on January 9.

The POLO issued an advisory setting out the new policy on January 8 but Dela Torre said he withdrew this the following day for “fine-tuning.”

If implemented, the new policy would mean that Filipino domestic workers would have mandatory health exams at least every two years.

The proposed policy requires medical check-ups that include a physical exam, chest X-ray, stool exam, urine exam, and blood tests (Complete Blood Count, Hepatitis B, Sugar, Cholesterol, Triglyceride, Uric Acid, Blood Urea Nitrogen, and Creatinine).

It would also require employment agencies to submit the worker’s fit to work certificate and proof of her insurance coverage. Dela Torre said they would come up with a decision on the proposed policy by the end of the month.

Dela Torre earlier ordered the POLO to offer free tests for blood pressure and blood sugar due to the health concerns of OFWs in HK.

According to data from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the number of welfare assistance cases involving OFWs with medical problems in HK stood at 113 in 2014; increased to 129 in 2015; 244 in 2016; and 416 in 2017.

“Napapansin namin ang marami nating kababayan, na hindi siguro healthy yung lifestyle, na-iistress o nagkakaroon ng altapresyon,” said Consul General Antonio Morales in November.

“Napapansin din namin na maraming inaatake (sa puso). Minsan, akala natin nahihilo tayo. Yun pala, may deperensya na.  Marami tayong kaso…nakakalungkot yung iba natutumba na lang,” he added.

The Philippine Consulate General asked the HK government as early as August 2017 to require annual medical exams for foreign domestic workers.

Then Consul General Bernardita Catalla told Labour Secretary Dr. Law Chi-kwong that a mandatory annual checkup would improve the welfare of OFWs in the city.

“I noticed that in recent months, there was a higher number of deaths among Filipino domestic workers,” Catalla said.

“They sleep at night, the following day, they don’t wake up and the employer opens the bedroom and sees the worker lying dead and not breathing,” she said.

“I asked them to consider a [system] so that workers could go through annual medical check-up. The long working hours could lead to some natural causes of death,” she added.

Catalla also said that if the employer and the helper were aware of the health condition of the helper, the illness could be treated.

OWWA data showed that the illnesses of OFWs in HK included stroke (36 percent), cancer (27 percent), tuberculosis/lung problems (13 percent), mild depression (21 percent), and fracture/spinal problems (three percent).

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