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Pro-OFW groups urge the government to stop new cartel of medical clinics exploiting job applicants for Kuwait

August 11, 2016 The ACTS OFW party-list group and various civil society organizations urged the Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Labor and Employment to stop a new medical screening system for overseas job applicants bound for Kuwait that would give rise to a new cartel of medical clinics charging exorbitant fees per OFW. At the Serye Media Forum, ACTS OFW party-list Representative Aniceto “John” Bertiz III described the new medical screening system established by a mysterious company known only as WINSTON Q8 Certification Solutions, Inc. as “oppressive” because it limits the choices of overseas job applicants for Kuwait to only seven (7) accredited clinics all based in Metro Manila. The new system started its operations last Monday, Aug. 8. “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. The legislator, who worked as an OFW in Saudi Arabia in 1991, noted that under the WINSTON medical screening system, applicants for jobs in Kuwait would not even be issued receipts after depositing Php 8,400 to a BPI account. Only after paying this amount, and uploading scanned documents of the deposit slip, passport, photos and other documents to the WINSTON website, can an applicant choose from the 7 pre-selected clinics that would schedule his or her medical exams. “WINSTON will not be issuing a receipt to the applicant because the transactions are web-based. This mysterious company will pay the accredited medical clinic while pocketing a huge profit for its web platform services without a proper reporting of its earnings to the government. This is a clear case of a monopoly at the expense of our overseas workers and the national government,” Bertiz said. 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?” Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said, 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) noted that other countries might follow the WINSTON 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. According to ACTS OFW party-list and civil society groups, the WINSTON medical screening scheme violates the Migrant Workers and Overseas Act of 1995 as amended by RA 10022, to wit: a.   Section 6, subparagraph (c4) which deemed it unlawful (and classifies this offense as Illegal Recruitment) to Impose a compulsory and exclusive arrangement whereby an overseas Filipino worker is required to undergo health examinations only from specifically designated medical clinics, institutions, entities or persons, except in the case of a seafarer whose medical examination cost is shouldered by the principal/shipowner” b.   Section 16 of the same law mandates the Department of Health to ensure that:                               i.   Section 16 (c.2) The Filipino migrant worker shall only be required to undergo health examinations when there is reasonable certainty that he or she will be hired and deployed to the jobsite and only those health examinations which are absolutely necessary for the type of job applied for or those specifically required by the foreign employer shall be conducted                               ii.  Section 16 (c.3) No group or groups of medical clinics shall have a monopoly of exclusively conducting health examinations on migrant workers for certain receiving countries                               iii. Section 16 (c.4) Every Filipino migrant worker shall have the freedom to choose any of the DOH-accredited or DOH-operated clinics that will conduct his/her health examinations and that his or her rights as a patient are respected. The decking practice, which requires an overseas Filipino worker to go first to an office for registration and then farmed out to a medical clinic located elsewhere, shall not be allowed.

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