KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 – The Social Security Organisation (Socso) is currently drafting guidelines for coronavirus screening of an estimated 400,000 workers from sectors newly allowed to operate during the partial lockdown.
“Socso is currently in the midst of preparing the guidelines and procedures for Covid-19 screening for workers in sectors allowable to operate during the MCO (Movement Control Order) period,” Socso CEO Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed told CodeBlue yesterday, when asked for details on which tests Socso would use and payments to clinics.
“Everything have yet to be finalised,” he added.
In a previous statement, Mohammed Azman said that the programme, known as the Prihatin Screening Programme, is free of charge. The cost of the screening for eligible employees and employers will be borne by the social security fund that protects employees against occupational injuries and invalidity.
“Socso will announce the list of clinics and hospitals that will provide the services once it has been finalised,” said the statement.
Previously, two doctors’ groups suggested using either rapid antibody or antigen tests to screen some 400,000 workers approved during the third phase of the MCO.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said it supported the government’s announcement in using the rapid antibody test kit for those who are returning to work, while the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM) highlighted rapid antigen tests that can detect early Covid-19 infection.
FPMPAM urged the government to expand Covid-19 testing for the 400,000 workers to all 7,000 over private general practitioners (GPs). Screening 400,000 employees would work out to over 10 patients per day for each clinic, a “massive undertaking”, said FPMPAM.
The doctors’ group said Covid-19 tests currently cost RM50 each, while the physician’s fee is minimum RM30 per patient. FPMPAM questioned if Socso would also cover the cost of a biosafety cabinet to store the tests, protective gear and supplies, extra staff, time spent on prerequisite training, and disinfection if Covid-19 cases turn up.
Screening 400,000 workers would cost Socso RM32 million if it pays RM80 per patient.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has opposed the use of Socso funds to pay for the Covid-19 tests, pointing out that Socso previously stopped free dialysis treatment for certain contributors. The social security fund withdrew last February its directive that imposed conditions on subsidising dialysis amid public uproar.
Socso had justified limiting its dialysis coverage to improve the fund’s sustainability, urging the government to review health financing in the country. Socso also highlighted last December a rising number of Malaysians applying for invalidity pensions, especially when approaching retirement, despite not being genuinely invalid. The CEO said treating Socso’s invalidity pension scheme like a retirement scheme would threaten the fund’s sustainability.