x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Needy Filipinas can get free check-ups

Women waiting to be repatriated will be among those treated by group set up by Manila-trained doctor.

DUBAI // More than 100 women staying at a shelter inside the Philippine overseas labour office will be among those to benefit from free monthly health screenings which begin this Friday.

The women, who have been waiting for repatriation for as long as two months, suffer from an assortment of ailments: colds and coughs, diarrhoea, sore eyes and chronic toothache, said Mary Simangan, the welfare officer in Dubai.

"We also have cases of high blood pressure and one is suffering from goitre," she said.

"In case of an emergency, we usually take them to a Filipina doctor at a private clinic and to the dentist."

The women, mostly housemaids, fled their employer's homes after complaining of mistreatment, including unpaid salaries, long working hours, lack of food and sleep and physical abuse.

Ms Simangan said 30 women were sent home recently; they are now preparing for another repatriation.

The checkups are being offered by the Philippine Healthcare Professionals Association - UAE (PHPA-UAE), which was established last year by Dr Alfonso Vincent Torres.

The 31-year-old Manila-trained general practitioner arrived in the country in 2008.

He passed the UAE Ministry of Health exams in March 2009 and now practises general medicine at a healthcare centre in Hor al Anz in Dubai.

He has spent much of his spare time establishing the PHPA-UAE, which has grown to 28 members.

"Initially, I thought of helping out Filipino healthcare professionals wanting to build a career in the UAE," Dr Torres said. "Our aim now is to help people who can't afford to pay Dh50 in consultation fees."

On December 22 his organisation became part of Filcom, the umbrella organisation of more than 90 Filipino community groups in Dubai and the northern Emirates, after being accredited by the Philippine consulate in Dubai.

The group's aims include providing health care, particularly to the less fortunate, and promoting awareness in the community about the importance of prevention in primary health care.

Members of the Filipino community in Dubai wanting medical advice are also welcome to attend the group's medical mission this Friday, according to Dr Torres.

"Since offering free medical check-ups at my wife's church in 2009, I realised that many of our compatriots had concerns over health care issues," he said.

The common ailments included respiratory infections, abdominal pain, hypertension, diabetes and musculoskeletal pain.

"Many of them said that check-ups were too costly and they needed a doctor who would take time to fully explain their illness," Dr Torres said.

"I believe doctors need to speak to their patients to allay their fears instead of merely handing out prescriptions."

The PHPA-UAE also plans to conduct basic first aid training, basic life support and education on how to treat common illnesses. By the end of this year, the group plans to extend its services to the other emirates.

The free checkups will be available on the first Friday of every month at the labour offices in Deira from 2-6pm.