Recently, there has been a lot of publicity about doctor’s ignorance on occupational diseases. Hence, the employer goes scout-free while workers loses out on compensation, treatment and disability benefit.
Occupational health is a highly specialized course. There are a lot of diseases related to your working environment, what we call work related diseases.
This may include heavy metal poisoning, skin disease, cancer, bronchitis, asthma, and babies with abnormalities. These are some of the common diseases associated with the employment. Many of these diseases may have originated from their work place.
Malaysia employees take on average of 4.2 days of medical leave per year. This is higher than most other countries. However, the number of cases related to occupational diseases is about 500 cases annually. This is extremely small number of occupational diseases reported yearly.
Based on projection, Malaysia should have about 60000 workers afflicted with occupation related illness every year.
This should be of great concern to the workers and the authorities. Who should take the blame? I would say the employers and doctors should shoulder the blame.
Employers in order to reduce cost often cut corners on safety measures and often if there are any occupational diseases linked to their work place, rarely workers report to the authorities. The employees of course for fear of discrimination and dismissal normally do not report on their employers.
Doctors should take the major portion of the blame for the underreporting of occupational diseases in the country.
Most general practitioners are ignorant about occupational health and hence are unable to link diseases and health problems to work place.
Often doctors treat patients based on symptoms and because of ignorance, doctors find it difficult to link diseases to work.
Doctors should undergo training on occupational health so that they get better acquainted with the potential danger posed by working environment.
It is often said that doctors don’t think about a disease, they often miss the diagnosis.
A very casual history taking and examination will in no way detect occupational diseases. Often it needs detail understanding of illness and work place.
So, the call to have specialist in the Socso panel clinics is justifiable. Most of the time, when the most common occupational disease reported to Socso, it is grossly underreported. Employees should demand their rights according to the Socso Act.
There is a need for emphasis on health and safety of workers in their work place. An employer should be directed to provide safe and healthy working environment for their staffs.
Doctors obviously need better training on occupational health, otherwise this severe underreporting of occupational related disease will continue.