Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
PETALING JAYA: Government hospitals face an uphill battle in trying to recover money spent on treating foreigners, says a hospital official in the wake of a report about foreign nationals owing RM50 million in unpaid hospital bills.
Speaking to FMT on condition of anonymity, the official, who works in a government hospital in the Klang Valley, said many of the foreigners who sought treatment at his hospital couldn’t afford the bills.
He noted that documented foreign workers were covered by the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Medical Insurance Scheme.
“In some cases, when it is insufficient, the employers will have to fork out the balance. But the problem is that you also have employers who then abandon their workers at the hospital.
“Of course, there are also foreigners who are illegally here.”
He said his hospital would cater to any foreigner seeking treatment, regardless of his legal status.
“In the case of an illegal immigrant, we will contact the Immigration Department as well as his embassy and the foreign affairs ministry.
“If they are legal but don’t have enough to pay, we will also contact the embassies and the foreign ministry.”
He said only some embassies respond by contacting the patients’ families to ask them to settle the bills or, occasionally, by settling the bills themselves.
“But some embassies don’t respond and there’s nothing we can do.”
He said the situation was more complex with illegal or stateless patients.
“When they don’t have documents, we will reach out to the Immigration Department. But sometimes, even the department can’t simply take every patient in, especially if the patient has a contagious illness.
“So, in the end, we will treat and then discharge the person because we need the bed to treat others.”
Yesterday, Parti Warisan Sabah demanded that the government explain its failure to collect unpaid bills.
Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking told FMT it was “ridiculous” that the government had allowed so much money to go uncollected from foreigners when Malaysian citizens were struggling with the high cost of living.
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