Visa health tests to be speeded up

By SANDEEP SINGH GREWAL ,  Posted on » Monday, October 18, 2010

EXPAT employees should get their work visas faster after private hospitals and clinics were given the green light to conduct mandatory pre-employment medical tests.The tests, which also cover family members, used to be conducted solely at Al Razi Health Centre, Al Nuaim.

However, the Health Ministry is rolling out the service due to increasing pressure on the centre, which has a daily average of 500 people receiving treatment or undergoing pre-employment tests, said officials.

A total of 30,960 new work visas were issued in the first half of this year alone – 34 per cent of them for construction workers, according to Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) figures.

“With the new decision, private hospitals and clinics licensed by the ministry will be allowed to conduct pre-employment tests for foreign workers,” said the centre’s pre-employment testing section head Dr Abdulla Mansoor.

Foreign workers upon arrival at the Bahrain International Airport will still be given appointments to conduct tests at Al Razi Health Centre, he said.

However, the workers will now have an option to visit a private hospital or clinic to carry out the test.

This, said Dr Mansoor, would be done at fees fixed by the private hospital.

Under the current practice, a worker’s medical certificate after screening is sent electronically to the LMRA.

After completion of all the formalities, a residence permit is issued.

“The private hospital will forward us the medical report of the patient, which will be forwarded to the LMRA,” said Dr Mansoor.

The new rules by health authorities will also reduce the waiting list for foreign workers to undergo the tests, which now stands at two weeks.

Dr Abdulla said in case a worker was sick before the two-week period he could visit the nearest health centre for treatment.

“If patients fall sick before the pre-employment test, they could visit the nearest health centre or the Salmaniya Medical Complex for treatment. It is the right of every individual to have access to health services,” he said.

All expatriates who secure a job in Bahrain are required to undergo a medical check up at the country of origin.

When they arrive, they undergo another medical examination before they get their residence permits.

The pre-employment medical tests includes general medical examination and chest X-ray.

This is in addition to blood investigation to cover HIV, Hepatitis-B and Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test for syphilis for certain occupations such domestic workers, food handlers, barbers and beauty saloon staff. Workers who fail these tests are considered unfit for work and not issued new work visa.