Free medical checkups offered to garment workers as part of a Ministry of Health pilot project are superficial and inadequate, workers and labour rights observers said yesterday.
The 40-day health programme was announced at the end of September, and coincided with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s charm offensive to woo garment workers around the capital. At the time, Svay Rieng Provincial Health Department Director Dr Keo Rotha said the clinics would offer glucose tests, blood pressure tests, X-rays and blood tests in case of fainting. But accounts from workers in other provinces suggested the services fell far below expectations.
Seak Hong, 34, a garment worker at Horizon Outdoor (Cambodia) Co Ltd in Kampong Chhnang, said she received a medical checkup at her factory last month, but found it to be useless.
“They didn’t do a blood test,” she said. “They only asked us to [get on the] scale, and measured out height . . . For every kind of illness, they only provided paracetamol and vitamins. I don’t feel like I received . . . good treatment.”
Khath Srey Touch, a garment worker at Pou Yuen (Cambodia) Enterprise Ltd in Phnom Penh who suffers from stomach pain, said doctors took her measurements but did not offer a blood test.
Prak Vun, director of the Kampong Chhnang Health Department, said he wasn’t sure if the ministry has plans to offer the services permanently. At the clinic, he said, workers were receiving a “general” medical checkup.
Multiple attempts to reach Health Minister Mam Bun Heng and ministry spokespeople were unsuccessful.
The pilot programmes have either already ended or will end soon, depending on the province, but it is unclear if the programme will be revived.
Dr Chap Modich, a doctor at private hospital Mercy Medical Center, said what the workers described seemed inadequate for a complete medical checkup.
“They [the doctors] have to go a little bit deeper,” he said, adding that workers should have also been asked about their medical history. Modich also said a medical checkup consists of a complete blood-count test. For pregnant women, doctors should screen for diabetes, high-blood pressure, folic acid levels and iron, he added.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said while these services had the potential to be good for workers, they may also just be an effort to gain political support ahead of next year’s election, as well as an effort to divert workers’ attention from the state’s troubled hospitals.