The diligence and perseverance of Overseas Filipino Workers have been known throughout the world. Even the most overwhelming tasks are done without complaint, all for the sake of their families back in the Philippines. Sometimes their utmost consideration for their families is taking a toll on their health, but being in a foreign country, very little resources are made available for their medical treatment.
OFW’s Unfortunate Experience
Take the case of an OFW in Saudi Arabia named Marciana Belino who was reported in the media to be abandoned by her employer in critical condition. She was brought to the hospital by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), to undergo surgical operation, since her repatriation can’t proceed without an operation taking place. However, for her to have an operation, documents such as passport and residence permit are required.
According to Juvy Belino (Marciana’s sister), the POLO had been unresponsive regarding the procurement of Marciana’s documents. She expressed her worry that the Philippine authorities may not be monitoring her sister properly.
In a month’s time, she was finally repatriated. An acquaintance, posted about Marciana’s return along with photos of her in the hospital on facebook asking for help since Marciana has not fully recovered.
Close Coordination Among Gov’t Agencies
The case of Marciana manifests that the system, if there is any, for medical repatriation of OFWs is not properly executed. But all of that may now be a thing of the past. Just last month the DFA joined forces with five other government agencies to systematize the medical repatriation process for OFWs.
In the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) signed by the involved agencies namely the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the specific duties of the agencies are outlined; from identification of patient, securing of medical clearance for fitness to travel, transportation to the Philippines, up to the post-arrival stage.
Specific Services Identified
The JMC provides for the extension of services such as: medical check-ups, airport assistance, PhilHealth membership coverage, referals to DOH hospitals, DOH medical assistance programs, and psychological counseling.
Undocumented OFWs are also to be covered by the JMC. This is to avoid cases like Gilda Espleta’s, who was an undocumented OFW in Beirut. Gilda was said to have troubles seeking treatment for her illness because of her status.
Reasons for Medical Repatriation
Based on data from the Department of Health, the most frequent medical reasons for repatriation in 2016 were strokes, heart attacks, mental disorders, renal failure and cancer. That said, the OFWs who have such medical conditions deserve a well-coordinated and quick process for their medical repatriation thus a collaborative effort is needed.
OFWs who are sacrificing themselves for the welfare of their families are more than deserving to have the best service possible whenever they are in a dire situation such as Marciana. In light of this, OFWs must also take care of their physical and mental health by not exhausting themselves with too much work since prevention is better than cure after all.