Employers have role to play in maids' health

In her letter ("Tighter screening of maids needed"; Sept 24), Ms Lim Wan Keng said that health screening packages for maids are very basic and do not pick up pre-existing conditions or screen for signs of depression or other mental disorders.

She also said that the standard medical insurance for maids does not cover normal medical bills.

While the standard medical insurance for maids covers accidents, and not normal medical bills, there are riders that can be purchased to cover maids' mental conditions, including hospitalisation and specialist treatment for any mental condition.

This may help to reduce the financial burden on employers if maids are found to be mentally distressed.

When foreign maids enter Singapore the first time, they are required to undergo basic physical health screening, which includes blood and urine tests, chest X-rays and medical examination by a general practitioner.

It would be a real challenge for GPs to examine maids' mental health because there may be no apparent symptoms in such new workers.

Requiring maids to undergo mental health assessment when they first enter Singapore for work could put their employment prospects in jeopardy. Also, there is still a global social stigma associated with mental disorders.

The responsibility still lies with maid employers. If employers notice any strange behaviour in their maids, they can have them examined by psychological counsellors or trained clinical psychologists.

If the maids are deemed to have a mental health issue, they should be referred to psychiatrists.

When it comes to maids' regular medical check-ups, perhaps the frequency should be increased to once every three months, instead of the current half-yearly checks.

Ada Chan Siew Foen (Ms)