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Migrant Workers to Receive Basic Healthcare
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A scheme to provide basic occupational health services for migrant workers will be launched by the Chinese government this year.
The initial pilot scheme in 20 counties over 10 provinces arrives as the Ministry of Health prepares to conduct a survey on the occupational health of migrant workers, said a ministry official in Beijing Monday.
The ministry has listed the study as a priority said Su Zhi, deputy head of the Division of Supervision under the ministry.
The basic health services would be paid for by employers under existing laws but the ministry has asked the State Council to establish a fund to help cover the costs of migrant workers' healthcare in cases of occupational illness and injury.
The number of migrant workers is estimated at 120 million and the those employed in rural enterprises is put at 80 million, according to a report released by the State Council.
Most migrant workers in cities and rural areas were employed in arduous and difficult jobs but had no medical insurance and little knowledge of safety issues making them a high-risk group to occupational illness and injury, said Li Dehong, an expert with the China Center for Disease Control.
Moreover, 90 percent of enterprises were small or medium-sized and had little awareness of occupational hazards and provided few safety measures for their employees, said Health Vice Minister, Chen Xiaohong.
The ministry would set up a pilot network to improve reporting and monitoring of occupational ill health as the existing system was incomplete, said Su Zhi.
Health files should be kept at migrant workers' hometowns as it was usual for them to return home during the traditional new year period, he said.
Last year the ministry had received 12,212 reports of occupational illness. Of these 75.11 percent related to pneumoconiosis which is a chronic disease of the lungs resulting from long-term inhalation of dust and mainly affects miners, sandblasters and metal grinders.
In addition more than 200 cases of acute occupational poisoning occurred every year which caused millions of yuan in economic losses, said Chen Xiaohong.
The Ministry of Health and the State Administration of Work Safety would jointly improve monitoring of occupational illness control and educate employers on the law and their social responsibilities, he said.
The two departments and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions jointly awarded 56 enterprises with the 'State model enterprise on occupational health' accolade on Monday. They were judged on strict standards based on existing guidelines and regulations, funding, working conditions,  equipment and the provision of health insurance for employees. 
The enterprises are expected to share and publicize their experiences with other businesses in and effort to promote occupational health.

(Xinhua News Agency April 25, 2006)


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