A worker gets his temperature taken

From April 2022, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) required employers to purchase a Primary Care Plan (PCP) for Work Permit or S-Pass holders who stay in dormitories or are in construction, marine or process sectors. The PCP is meant to provide these migrant workers with affordable access to primary healthcare.

A year on, we wanted to investigate how PCP was being perceived by the Bangladeshi migrant worker population, and their experiences in accessing these services.

Generally, our study found that it was quite widely known, though workers were not familiar with the term ‘Primary Care Plan’ or ‘PCP’. They mostly understood it as some kind of arrangement under which that they were able to visit certain clinics and pay only five dollars per visit. Such information was usually passed from fellow workers or friends, and there seemed to be no structured way for this information to come from the government or employers to them. So, potentially, misinformation and misunderstanding can spread.

Our study respondents generally had a positive perception of PCP, mostly on account of its affordability. Many respondents in fact got reimbursed by employers the $5 that they had to pay at the clinic though 56% said they were not.

However, they also expressed two key difficulties faced when visiting the doctor, namely, the English language barrier and long waiting times at the clinics. Moreover, there was the enduring fear that if one visited the doctor too often, the risk of not getting renewal for one’s work permit would be heightened. In that sense, seeing a doctor costs more than five dollars; it can cost a worker his job.

PCP is closely linked with and accessible through MOM’s FWMOMCare app, but not all the workers we polled were aware of this, even though a large majority of the survey respondents said they had the app on their phones. The app would help with booking appointments, telemedicine services, and locating the nearest medical centre. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the app was mostly used to access their vaccination records, so, many workers still associated it with Covid and were unaware of the other available features.

Our study had two parts: firstly, an online survey built on Google forms and dissemintated via TWC2’s Bengali-language Facebook page. We obtained 227 valid responses.

The second phase comprised two face-to-face focus group discussions with nine Bangladeshi migrant workers where we shared our preliminary survey results with them to seek their further inputs for interpretating the data we had obtained.

The report in PDF (29 pages) can be downloaded by clicking on the icon at right.