BY PMA RASHEED
4 May 2011, The Gulf Today
Dubai: About 21 per cent of the total Asian job-seekers who underwent medical examinations before obtaining their UAE residence visa in 2009 had tuberculosis, the Ministry of Health (MoH) revealed on Tuesday.
This serious situation prompted the UAE authorities to think about implementing strong regulations in regard to the medical examination procedures for foreign workforce entering the country, says a senior health official.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Policies at the MoH, indicated that the ministry, in the process of implementing the recent decision of Ministerial Service Council, is currently preparing new by-laws for the residency medical examination of expatriates who should get their medical check-ups done in their countries of origin before arrival in the UAE.
“The new regulation on getting medical fitness certificate for all new expatriates aims to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and reduce the financial burden of managing expatriates affected by contagious diseases,” he added.
“The current mechanism for expatriate medical tests in the UAE has been efficient for more than 30 years to manage low rates of infectious diseases in the country, as the system insists on expats repeating the medical tests at the time of every residency visa renewal,” Dr Fikri noted.
“But it was noticed later that the rate of infectious diseases increased among certain categories of labourers coming from some countries where communicable diseases are endemic,” he pointed out.
“The national committee for expatriate medical tests reviewed the check-up mechanism and reported to the higher authorities to implement necessary precaution procedures to stop entry of foreign workers with contagious illnesses,” he said.
“However, all the expatriate workers will have to undergo a second round of medical tests in the UAE before obtaining their residency visa. This is to ensure that the expatriates don’t breach the law by producing fraudulent medical fitness certificates,” underscored Dr Fikri.
According to him, the committee is currently analysing the mechanism followed by the GCC Health Ministries Council to ensure the arrival of expatriate labourers without any infectious disease.
“The communicable diseases may disseminate locally, even if the affected persons stay in the country for a month before discovering their diseases while undergoing the necessary procedures. Also, some people with infectious diseases run away, further putting the public health at risk,” he elaborated.
“The MoH is currently coordinating with the health authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to carry out inspection visits at the visa-medical test facilities in Asian countries to ensure accuracy, safety and reliability of the examinations conducted at such centres,” said Dr Fikri.
“As cases of contagious diseases are mainly reported among the Asian workers, the UAE will also seek implementing scientific methods to transfer the tests results and other health information directly to the UAE health authorities from the workers’ home countries,” he concluded.