August 7, 2020 - The Institute of Public Health claims that most seafarers are provided with PCR testing by employers and that they can be tested in countries of entry, and therefore their departure onboard a ship does not depend only on testing in Montenegro.
A daily quota of samples has been agreed with the Union of Seafarers, which is appropriate to the current epidemiological situation, and which does not jeopardize the functioning of the laboratory and its public health function.
Nenad Lazović, President of the Association of Seafarers' Employment Agencies, told Pobjeda that seafarers have been in serious trouble since the second wave of coronavirus in the country, since mid-June. If they are preparing to board a foreign ship at port, they cannot carry out a PCR test that their employers consider valid, except if it is between 24 and 48 hours old.
AGREEMENT WITH THE UNION
Lazović also said that the Institute informed them that they are not a priority when it comes to the epidemiological and health situation.
"Not only could we not pay, but we could no longer make an appointment (for testing)," Lazovic told Pobjeda, noting that sailors are thus left to their own devices and have to manage and look for a laboratory in which to perform testing.
However, Pobjeda announced yesterday that they have an "absolute understanding for seafarers, as well as certain categories of passengers in international traffic, especially those who travel for health and medical reasons so that certain daily capacities of the laboratory are reserved for them."
"We apologize that we are not familiar with the existence of several professional associations of seafarers. The Institute spoke only with the Union of Seafarers as a non-governmental association that has so far negotiated and represented seafarers' interests in Montenegro and has no objections to cooperation with the Institute of Public Health," they stated.
They explain that "within their competence and the current epidemiological situation, the main focus is on the public health function of the microbiological laboratory, whose primary goal is to identify patients and their contacts and enable testing of persons with other health needs, often acute."
"This approach will ensure that laboratory facilities are used for what is most needed to combat existing and prevent future disease," they said.
They add that "the Institute is obliged to provide services to persons insured by Fund, and those based on the doctor's instructions, while there is no obligation for other tests."
"But because of the situation in which we and all other citizens find ourselves, including seafarers, we are looking for ways to provide everyone with free testing, without endangering those for whom testing is primarily intended."
They also stressed that, according to their records, the last inquiry they received from seafarers was in April 2020.
"In any case, we remain open to improving cooperation with them," the IPH concluded.
Lazović told Pobjeda that the Association had sent letters to the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases, the Institute of Public Health, the Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs, and the Ministry of Health regarding testing problems for seafarers, but they had not received a response.
As Lazović confirmed to Pobjeda, since Croatia closed the border, the company "Marin Med Montenegro" has appeared, which performs PCR test sampling in the cross-border area between Montenegro and Croatia, at the Karasovići border crossing.
The price of a standard PCR test is 350 euros, and the results arrive in 48 hours, while the express test, which is ready in 26 hours, costs 400 euros. Lazović also said that they have information that prices for sampling on weekends go up to 450 euros.
The IPH also said that most seafarers are provided with testing by their employers and that they can be tested in the countries of entry (Germany, Turkey, Croatia, etc.), so their departure onboard a ship does not depend only on testing in Montenegro.
"In any case, as the epidemiological situation improves, more centers and more sampling opportunities will be available to our seafarers," they said.