OFW rights groups decry Kuwait’s new medical screening system

Don Kevin Hapal
OFW rights groups decry Kuwait’s new medical screening system
An industry experts warns that this new scheme will slow down deployment to Kuwait in the next few months

MANILA, Philippines – A new medical screening system for Filipinos who want to work in Kuwait is meeting stiff opposition from migrant groups and advocates, who said this would give rise to a “new cartel of medical clinics charging exorbitant fees” to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The new system, which started on August 8, limits job applicants to only 7 accredited clinics within Metro Manila. Behind the new scheme is Philippine-based firm Winston Q8 Certification Solutions Inc., taking over GCC Accredited Medical Association (GAMCA).

According to ACTS OFW, the new system jacks up medical examination fees to P8,400 or 55KD, triple the previous regulated amount of P 2,580 by the Department of Health.

ACTS OFW party-list Representative Aniceto “John” Bertiz III described the new medical screening system as “oppressive” and called the Winston Q8 a “mysterious company.”

“Who controls WINSTON Q8 Certification Solutions, Inc? No one really knows because even its website does not mention who the owners are. Yet, this company shall have full control over the fate of the job applicant and the financial transactions of its accredited medical clinics,” Bertiz said.

Industry and recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani also said that by limiting the choices of aspiring OFWs, the new scheme will slow down deployment to Kuwait in the next few months.

“Currently all Middle East OFWs medical examination are done by GAMCA for the countries of Bahrain, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for a potential market of 400,000 OFWs and removing Kuwait from Gamca accredited clinics means a loss of 80,000 potential medical exams for the GCC clinics,” he shared.

These concerns were echoed by civil society organizations such as the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and the Filipino Migrant Workers Group.  

“The new medical scheme is clearly anti-OFW. Why are they forcing overseas job applicants from the Visayas, and Mindanao to travel all the way to Metro Manila for medical tests with only seven clinics to choose from?” said Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, adding that the applicants are not even sure of being accepted by their desired Kuwaiti employer.

Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers Group (FMWG) said that other countries might follow this new model in “creating their own cartel of medical clinics” if the Philippine government fails to enforce existing laws against the cartelization of medical tests.

“We appeal to the Duterte administration to put a stop to this nefarious scheme by a new cartel of medical clinics to earn nearly triple the current amount of prescribed medical fees from Kuwait-bound overseas job applicants,” Aguilar, a former OFW, said.

The Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait, Inc (PHILAAK), meanwhile, sought the help of the Department of Labor and Employment in stopping the new scheme.

“The law is very clear. Job applicants for overseas work must have the freedom to choose the medical testing center or medical clinic that would administer the prescribed medical tests prior to deployment, as long as said clinics are DoH-accredited,” Amanda Araneta, president of PHILAAK said.

Rappler is awaiting Winston’s comments on the matter.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are 141,926 OFWs in Kuwait as of 2015. – Rappler.com

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Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.