Stroke downs 32 OFWs in HK

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OFWs in Statue Square

Heart disease was the top ailment of hospitalized overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong who were visited by consular officers in the last nine months, according to latest data from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).

Welfare Attache Marivic C. Clarin said POLO officers visited 188 OFWs in hospitals from January until September 24 and more than 20 percent of these patients had cardiovascular disease.

“Marami silang na-stroke…It’s because of stress sa work and family and poor diet, which can be associated with lack of food or unhealthy food provided to workers,” Clarin said in an interview.

“Kasi mula umaga pagkagising, yung iba diretso hanggang hating gabi. (Merong) stressed sa family sa Pilipinas or stressed dito sa employer,” she added.

Clarin said that of the 188 patients, 42 had cardiovascular disease.

The other diseases were cancer (31 patients), pulmonary-related (21), mental disorder (12), kidney-related (10), liver-related (3), lupus (2), and skin disease (2).

The rest were different other ailments. Some patients had two medical conditions.

“Yung iba hindi nila nakakayanan,” Clarin said.

Those hospitalized with a heart ailment included 32 who had a stroke while the rest had a heart attack, blocked artery, aneurysm, and one had a “left parietal lobe infarct.”

The 31 who had cancer included those who had them in their breast (8), cervix (4), brain (4), ovary, blood-forming tissues, uterus, and liver. Nine OFWs suffered from kidney failure while one was hospitalized for kidney stones.

Those that had pulmonary-related diseases included six who had tuberculosis and four suffered from pneumonia.

Clarin said that when she was still back in the Philippines with MedPlus, an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) program that provides one-time medical assistance to OFWs, the initial top beneficiaries were overseas Filipinos from Hong Kong.

“We have a program, MedPlus, for dreaded diseases. Yung initial na nagavail, nung tiningnan ko, karamihan taga Hong Kong at yung dreaded disease …cancer,” she said.  “Hong Kong siya tapos (taga)-norte (northern Philippines),” she added.

During the first week of September, two Filipino domestic workers died due to an aneurysm, including one in Yuen Long who was just 32 years old.

Former Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre earlier said hypertension and diabetes rates among OFWs in Hong Kong were higher compared to Filipinos back in the Philippines.

Dela Torre said the “poor health” of many HK OFWs should be seen through the “context of their stressful working conditions.”

From 2014 to 2017, stroke was the top illness of OFWs repatriated from Hong Kong, according to data from OWWA.

Stroke victims comprised 36 percent of OFWs repatriated back to the Philippines, while those with cancer comprised 27 percent.

The other illnesses reported were tuberculosis/ lung problems (13 percent), mild depression (21 percent), and fracture/spinal problems (three percent).

“There has to be a way out of this, either thru mandatory health checks that even the Indonesian Consulate General has seen fit to require or stronger enforcement and statutory working conditions of 350,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong,” Dela Torre said.

“The matter of the poor health of many of our workers should not be treated as an isolated issue. It has to be understood in the context of their stressful working conditions,” he added.

Migrant groups had long called for regulated working hours so that foreign domestic workers would have enough time to rest.

But Hong Kong does not have standard working hours for its workers. A study released in April showed that one in five employees in the city worked an average of 11 hours a day.

Legislative Council member Kenneth Leung said during a forum at the Philippine Consulate General that foreign domestic workers would have regulated working hours only if Hongkongers also get standard working hours.

“Even Hong Kong people, we are also asking for standard working hours and the government said ‘No, we don’t want to legislate for standard working hours. You have to agree with your employer,’” Leung said.