Daily Express, Sunday, Malaysia, March 01, 2009
Kota Kinabalu: About 341 newly-arrived foreign workers from Indonesia have been screened by the Foreign Workers Health Assessment Centre (FWHAC) at Mile 5 of Jalan Apas in Tawau, since it commenced operations in early August last year.
And 21 per cent of them were found to have communicable diseases, particularly hepatitis, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and so on and, therefore, could not be in the State.
This centre, the first of its kind set up to serve as a holding centre for medical examination of foreign workers coming for the first time to Sabah, is being operated as a pilot project by Warisan Harta Sdn Bhd's (WHS) sub-contractor Growarisan Sdn Bhd.
"The centre in Tawau is a pilot project and set up to fulfil the requirements of the Government both at the State and Federal levels with regards to the health aspects of the foreign workers. It is only meant for those foreign workers who arrive in the State for the first time. As for renewal, they will go through the normal procedures," said Datuk Rahman Ghani, the Chief Executive Officer of WHS, a State Government wholly-owned investment holding company.
He told reporters this after he attended a dialogue on FWHAC and other issues related to foreign workers in Sabah, organised jointly by the Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KKCCCI), Sabah United Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SUCCC) and Sabah Timber Industries Association (STIA) at the KKCCCI building here, Saturday.
Rahman said the holding centre provides a lot of benefits, one of them being convenience for all newly-arrived foreign workers in the State where they can get their medical report within just two days.
"Secondly, it helps the authorities to prevent foreign workers from ending up becoming illegals if they are found unfit to work in the State. We and the Immigration Department will immediately send them out from the State, to prevent any communicable diseases from spreading in Sabah," he said.
Growarisan Sdn Bhd outsourced to Visa Suria Holdings Sdn Bhd, the provision of support services such as transportation, meals, lodging and medical examination, etc.
For medical examination, a male foreign worker is charged a fee of RM180 and RM190 for a female foreign worker. For the dormitory, it costs RM95 for a maximum of two nights stay and RM45 for each extra day's stay (if agent cannot collect foreign workers on time).
Also charged is a RM210 refundable deposit per non-agent. The deposit is required in case of extra quarantine stay for unfit workers pending deportation and also to offset damages to the facilities provided.
"We have not received any complaint about the services provided at this centre so far, except for the RM95 payment for the accommodation and food. The RM95 is considered very minimal. When we talk about the total cost we talk about the levy, where even the agent's fees are almost RM600.
I think they will be talking more about the levy with the Government," said Rahman, referring to the associations involved in the dialogue.
To a query from one of the dialogue participants on why the centre is presently just catering to Indonesian workers and not those from the Philippines and why it is only in Tawau, Rahman said the centre in Tawau is only a pilot project.
"Actually we cannot set up every centre at the moment. Because just to set up the said holding centre in Tawau already costs us a minimum of RM5 million since it started operations," he said.
He, nevertheless, said they are communicating with the relevant authorities and working very closely with the Immigration Department, hoping this can be made compulsory for foreign workers who arrive for the first time to Sabah.
But those with renewal purposes will not have to go through the centre, he said, adding the Filipino workers are also screened but they go through the normal screening procedures without going through this centre.
"Hopefully, if we succeed and although it would be costly, I will push for the setting up of such a centre in other areas in Sabah, for the benefit of the people in the State, which is to prevent them from getting infected by imported communicable diseases," he said.
Rahman said the Government has set a procedure to require all foreign workers coming into the State for the first time to go through this centre and thus "we hope the decision will come in the very near future."
"In 2007 there were about 97,000 foreign workers who went through medical check-ups, while last year about 70,000 to 80,000. Bear in mind there are about 300,000 registered foreign workers in Sabah and a lot of them, because of the previous procedures, did not go through the medical check-up," he said.
But now all of them are required to go through a medical check-up once in certain period of time, he added.
Rahman found the dialogue positive, with everybody understanding the explanation given on the need to have the holding centre.
"That is a very positive sign. The views presented by the participants like Federation of Sabah Manufacturers (FSM) President Datuk Wong Khen Tau and others will help push forward the need for this holding centre," he said.