MP scorns latest bid against spread of illness


PETALING JAYA: The government’s latest effort to control the spread of communicable diseases by foreign workers has failed to impress Klang MP Charles Santiago.

Santiago told FMT he doubted that the installation of biometric systems at Foreign Workers’ Medical Examination Monitoring Agency (Fomema) panel clinics would go far in addressing the issue.

The director-general of immigration, Mustafar Ali, announced yesterday that the biometric systems would be in place at all Fomema clinics by October. He said this would ensure a second layer of filtration of foreign workers. Initial filtering happens when the workers enter the country.

Mustafar claimed that the new measure would help tackle the rise in communicable diseases which many believe have resurfaced because of the presence of a large number of foreigners in the country.

Santiago said the move looked good “on paper” but added that he was sceptical as to its effectiveness.

He said illegal immigrants would likely avoid going to Fomema clinics, opting instead for clinics that would be less stringent in their filtering procedures.

He also spoke of documented foreign workers who might already have been sick when they entered the country. “The tests in their home countries might not have been properly done,” he said.

He said it was important to ensure that healthcare was affordable for foreigners so as to encourage them to seek it in the first place.

“Foreigners must be able to seek healthcare at affordable prices. Otherwise they will decide not to when they do get sick.”

In April, health ministry deputy secretary-general Mohd Shafiq Abdullah said all foreign residents except those with permanent resident status, those married to locals and children below the age of 12 – provided that one parent is a Malaysian or permanent resident – would have to pay a bigger deposit when seeking treatment at government hospitals.

In July, the former director of the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Abdul Razak Muttalif, said infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, leptospirosis and rabies were making a comeback in Malaysia.

It is believed that these diseases were brought in by foreign workers, both documented and illegal.

Commenting on the matter, Santiago told FMT he had heard of cases of employers bribing immigration officials to allow them to keep their undocumented workers or hire new ones.

“It’s likely that this is happening all around the country,” he said. “How else do you explain the millions of undocumented workers in the country?”