‘Flip-flop’ over screening of workers leaving many confused and frustrated, says MMA

Foreign workers line up for Covid-19 screening. The MMA says there is confusion over testing requirements and ministries need to coordinate.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has hit out at the “flip-flop in policies” surrounding the screening of workers, including foreigners, for Covid-19, saying it left business owners, employees and general practitioners (GPs) confused and frustrated.

MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran said this included the government’s stand on using antibody Rapid Test Kits (RTK).

Ganabaskaran said since the announcement that RTK would be used, companies had been calling clinics to arrange for screening for their employees.

But he said GPs could not conduct the screening without the necessary guidelines which were a safety requirement as the doctors and their staff were at risk of infection.

However, yesterday, the Social Security Organisation (Socso) said it was discontinuing the use of RTK for the mandatory screening of workers.

Instead, it said that only the Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) method of screening will be used.

“Recently, a flip-flop in policies with no clear-cut guidelines on the testing of the workforce before businesses resume operations under the conditional movement control order (CMCO) has left business owners, employees and even the GPs in the country confused and frustrated,” Ganabaskaran said in a statement.

He said MMA has since advised GPs not to perform the antibody RTK test without clear guidelines on its usage, infection prevention and control protocols, interpretation guidelines as well as quarantine criteria.

He also said there is confusion concerning testing of workers following an announcement by the international trade and industry ministry (Miti) two days ago.

Miti, he said, had stated that companies may resume business operations from May 4 without an approval letter from the ministry and that Covid-19 screening of workers is not mandatory.

This, he said, contradicted its earlier announcement for a requirement to screen all workers.

“Stakeholders are confused now as to why the screenings were needed at first and no longer needed now, knowing that the threat of Covid-19 is still very much around.”

He said the government must be clear on which sectors it wanted to focus on when implementing its targeted screening of foreign workers, adding that proper coordination among ministries is also needed.

He believed the confusion would not have happened if the announcement to test workers was made after receiving the guidelines from the health ministry.

“Healthcare is highly regulated. Guidelines must be in place before the announcement of such an extensive programme,” he said.

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