A PROGRAMME designed to provide garment workers with health care has struggled to attract factory owners since launching last March, but organisers say they hope it will serve 100,000 workers by the end of 2011.
Established by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and the French NGO Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes Technologiques (GRET), the programme has grown to enompass six different health-care facilities. Preah Kossamak Hospital and a health centre in Tuol Kork began participating on February 1.
Under the programme, workers at participating garment factories can receive health care for US$1.60 per month, a cost shared between the workers and their employers, said project manager Aurore Lambert.
“Each month the money comes from the worker’s salary, and they can get free health care whenever they need it from the public health facilities involved,” Lambert said.
The programme pays a flat fee to partially cover the costs of the workers’ health care. At Cambodian-Russian Frienship Hospital, for instance, the programme pays $61 for each patient who goes in for treatment, regardless of how much the treatment ends up costing.
Lambert blamed the economic crisis for the programme’s slower-than-expected start.
“The first garment workers were insured in September of last year. We were hoping to have 10,000 workers covered in the first year, but because of the financial crisis it is hard to convince factory management to pay their contribution for the insurance,” Lambert said.
She said more than 2,000 garment workers are currently participating in the programme.
In general, she said, health insurance is an altogether foreign concept for many garment workers.
“It took a while for workers to understand the idea of health insurance ... but after a few months we have noticed more people wanting to join,” she said.
Chim Sokly, a garment worker who has been enrolled in the programme for the past six months, said she had visited the hospital three times during that period.
“It is good to be able to come to the hospital knowing I won’t have to pay large costs,” she said during a checkup at Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital on Tuesday. “Before I would just get medicine at the pharmacy because the hospital was too expensive.”
Lambert said the programme was set to be transferred to the National Social Security Fund in 2011.