PETALING JAYA - For many of the 1.7 million Malaysians who have not gone for the free medical screening provided under a RM200million (S$79 million) government-funded programme, their excuse range from "not convenient" to procrastination.
"The voucher has been sitting on my keyboard for ages. I didn't find the time to use it because my university offers a comprehensive health plan," said Jimmy Chong, 47, a lecturer at a private institution.
His employer, he said, had provided him with a good health plan, so he found no reason to use the voucher given out by Socso under its Health Screening Programme (HSP).
"For example, I went for a coronary calcium scan in 2012. It was about RM400 to RM500 and I was allowed to claim for it," said Chong.
The HSP, which was announced in January last year, gave Socso members a one-year period to go for the medical screening.
The deadline, which supposed to be Dec 31 last year, was extended to June 30 this year.
About 2.2 million people were given the vouchers but at least 1.7 million have not taken up the free offer.
Susan Lim, a 44-year-old human resource officer, had assumed that the voucher was only valid in government hospitals.
"I go for my mammograms with my gynaecologist at a private hospital, so when I got the voucher, I thought it could only be used in government hospitals, so I was reluctant," said Lim.
S. Shanti, a 45-year old clerk, said she found it inconvenient as the health screening could only be done during weekdays.
"I work during the weekdays so it is inconvenient for me," she said.
Socso's Prevention and Health Promotion Unit manager Dr Azlan Darus described the response as "disheartening", considering that 65 per cent of the recipients of the vouchers had not gone for any comprehensive health screening before.
In an interview, Dr Azlan explained that HSP was meant to provide free health screening to Socso members aged 40 and above.
The HSP will screen for non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, as these illnesses were found to be factors affecting the productivity of Malaysian workers.
There are two types of vouchers for eligible workers. One is for a standard screening, comprising a physical examination, consultation, blood test, urine test and pap smear. The second voucher is solely for mammogram screening.
Dr Azlan said 2.156 million vouchers were sent out to eligible recipients through their employers in 2013 and this year.
"As of May 28, a total of 371,999 workers took the opportunity to undergo health screening using Standard HSP vouchers, while 126,634 used the mammogram vouchers," he said.
"The implementation of the programme was also timely with the retirement age going up from 55 to 60 years."
To date, 3,163 panel clinics and 95 mammogram centres nationwide are registered under the HSP.