KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — Aaron Ago Dagang has complained about high absenteeism among Sarawakian workers hired to replace foreign labourers in the construction of the state’s new Sri Aman Hospital.
The deputy health minister, who visited the Sri Aman Hospital construction site last August 21, said the contractor recruited about 219 locals from around Sri Aman to replace some 500 construction workers from China and Indonesia — who had returned to their home countries during the Covid-19 outbreak — but only 80 of the Malaysian workers turned up for work.
“They were expected to come to complete the job for the next few months, but the issue was that the locals who were recruited as workers didn’t show up, they ‘ponteng’,” Aaron told the “Program Live Streaming Abas Orang Kamek (AOK): Kafe Kamek” last September 8 at the Ministry of Health (MOH) headquarters in Putrajaya, organised by MOH and the Sarawak Public Communications Unit, Sarawak Volunteers, Pejabat Perhubungan Sarawak, and CATS FM.
“This causes even bigger problems to the contractors. People from China can’t come, Indonesians can’t come, we have locked them (out), nobody can come to our side. But when we hire our own people, our people don’t want to work.”
The Kanowit MP said the contractor previously employed 300 workers from China, 200 from Indonesia, and 50 Sarawakians. The Malaysian government has tightened border controls amid fresh Covid-19 outbreaks, barring last week the entry of citizens, including those with long-term resident passes, from countries that reported more than 150,000 Covid-19 cases, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as Indonesia. China was excluded from the ban as it has recorded some 85,000 cases in total.
Aaron, however, said he believed that Sri Aman Hospital would be ready for use by next year. MOH posted on Facebook that the construction of Sri Aman Hospital, which began in 2016 and is scheduled for completion in June next year, was expected to face delays due to the shortage of foreign workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The new Sri Aman Hospital, with 108 beds compared to 84 beds at the current Sri Aman division hospital, is expected to reduce congestion at the latter, said MOH.
“Sri Aman Hospital has basically been completed,” Aaron said. “The building is there.”
He added that contractors were currently installing sophisticated equipment imported from Germany and Japan. Staff quarters have already been built, while the small amount of pending work covers the installation of laboratories and final touch-ups for the building.
The deputy health minister also said a major public hospital and clinic in Miri are currently under construction. Construction for a new Lawas hospital has also begun.