The rapid pace of development and change witnessed by GCC countries over the last decades has created significant demands for manpower from other countries to support economic growth, development and construction in the region. It has therefore been particularly important for GCC countries to take appropriate actions to examine the expatriates in their home countries for compatibility between their health fitness and the nature of the work they were seeking in the GCC.
The processes developed have helped to ensure that expatriates are free from diseases — in particular infectious diseases - or other diseases that may not only threaten the security and safety of the Gulf society, but also impact areas of work performance, and psychological, economic and social aspects for the community. All these issues are directly or indirectly related to public health.
In this regard, the Ministers of the Gulf Health Council in its conference number 38 dated Sha'ban 1415H in January 1995, decided that the Executive Office of the Council of Ministers of Health (Gulf Health Council) should supervise the centers of examination of incoming expatriate workers in their countries before obtaining a work visa in GCC States.
The importance of the program:
- Limit the entry of inappropriate health cases to GCC countries through the examination of all applicants, and the re-examination of certain cases in order to seek validation of the results from the individual's country of origin.
- Takes appropriate measures against examination centers in violation of the sanctions list for the medical screening of expatriates for work or residence in GCC countries.
Objectives of the program:
- Take appropriate health measures to ensure that incomimg expatriates or residents are free from infectious deseases that may pose a health and security risk to GCC countries
- Ensure the fitness and health suitability of incoming workers to GCC countries and guarantee that they are free from chronic diseases, which would constitue an economic burden.
The Components of the program:
The program is based on the medical check-list of GCC expatriates, which has been continuously updated since the start of the program — most recently in August 2017. The check list specifies the following:
1. Role of the relevant authorities in issuing a visa:
Ensure that the medical examination is issued by an approved center of the Health Council in that country.
2. Functions of the Gulf Health Council:
Supervise the implementation of the rules and regulations and conditions of expatriate medical examinations.
3. Role of the Gulf Central Committee for the GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program:
The committee is concerned with the follow-up of reports and information on the authorized centers, as well as the study and proposal of new centers in countries of expatriate workers in proportion to the annual numbers of immigrants expected to be examined.
4. Mechanism of inspection and evaluation of expatriates health check-up medical centers:
This is done through regular visits of the GCC technical committees to follow up and correct the activities of inspection centers and ensure their compliance with the terms, procedures, and rules of examination.
5. Conditions of accreditation of expatriates health check-up medical centers:
Medical examination centers that wish to be accredited as authorized centers of expatriate examination should apply to the Gulf Health Council. The GCC committees will visit the centers and approve or dissapprove according to the conditions and criteria stipulated in the medical checklist for expatriates in GCC countries.
6. Criteria for accreditation of expatriates health check-up medical centers:
This is done through an evaluation form that is used by the Gulf technical committees to assess the facilities' assets and human resources; and to verify the information provided by these centers.
7. Rules and regulations of GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program :
These include clinical, laboratory and radiological tests conducted for expatriates in their home countries to ensure that they are free from diseases mentioned in the list of rules and regulations, as well as taking into consideration the confidentiality of the examination results and enter them to the database of the expatriate screening program. This regulation requires the creation of a computer network within the center linking all departments, and the adoption of the electronic fingerprint system and electronic imaging to verify the identity of expatriates and to achieve maximun safety standards and the quality of health reports.
8. Penalty list:
The list specifies the sanctions to be applied to approved medical examination centers in case of proven violation of the provisions of the regulation or the existence of administrative or technical violations. The most-recent update of August 2017 places more severe sanctions, ranging from warnings to financial fines, suspensions for a certain period, withdrawal of license and cancellation of accreditation of the center.
The list specifies the medical examination fee of the expatriate at a rate of USD 60 dollars for each applicant in all accredited centers in the GCC. It also determines the registration fees and the annual subscription for the accredited center.
10. Determination of the highest standard:
The limit of patients per center is set to 45 persons per day to ensure the quality of the examination.
11. GCC Expatriates Health Check-up connectivity Program:
The accredited centers are committed to the implementation of the GCC electronic link system for the GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program, which links the approved centers to the Gulf Health Council, Ministries of Health, the Embassies of the GCC countries and relevant authorities to issuing visas to verify the authenticity of the certificates, health reports and the speed in issuing visas.
The system provides the following:
- An electronic database of the examined expatriates.
- Accurate information and statistics on diseases, inappropriate conditions and outbreaks of diseases and epidemics.
- The speed of procedures in issuing the visa by the concerned authorities.
- Mitigation of the monetary and psychological costs of both the expatriate and the employer as a result of bringing in inappropriate cases to GCC States.
- The issuance of a health certificate that includes a barcode.
- Report inappropriate cases discovered in GCC countries.
Scope of the program:
Since its inception in 1995, the program has expanded to cover 11 countries — eight in Asia and three in Africa. The program was extended in 2017 to include new countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco and Jordan.
Achievements of the GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program:
- The percentage of inappropriate cases entering GCC countries before the adoption of the GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program ranged between 17% -20% and gradually decreased to approximately 2% after the adoption of the program and then 0.5% after applying the electronic connectivity system.
- The application of the barcode system by some embassies and consulates of the GCC Member States has reduced the falsification of medical reports and reduced the volume of work.
- Protection of the expatriates rights when working in GCC States.
- Providing information on the health of expatriate workers to the embassies and consulates of GCC States and other relevant bodies through the GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program. This helps to verify the results of the medical examination before issuing visas to expatriates.
Resolution of the Supreme Council of the GCC States:
In view of the importance of this vital program in maintaining the health security of the GCC Member States, the Final Declaration of the Supreme Council at its 37th Session, held in the Kingdom of Bahrain from 6-7 December 2016 stated the following:
- The commitment of the embassies and councils of GCC countries and the co-related authorities to verify the health and fitness validity of expatriates through the GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program.
- GCC embassies and councils shall not accept medical certificates from non-accredited medical centers by the Gulf Health Council.