Federal Government and Ministry of Health should extend the special monthly allowance COVID-19 to cover a larger group of healthcare workers—Kelvin

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Statement by Kelvin Yii:

I urged the Federal Government and Ministry of Health to extend the special RM 600 monthly COVID-19 to cover a larger group of healthcare workers who are also part of the “ecosystem” of management of COVID-19 patients including Emergency & Trauma Department(ETD) doctors, hospital cleaners, pharmacist, essential medical supplies logistics coordinators, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist and even counsellors.

Based on a recent circular released by the Ministry of Health to detail which public health care workers can qualify for the full special allowance, when they are directly involved in the COVID-19 management and have worked at least 15 days in one calendar month. This of course cover doctors, nurses, medical assistants, assistant environmental health officers, X-ray technicians, medical laboratory, public health assistants and many other directly involved in the chain of management in handling and curbing the COVID-19 outbreak.

While i strongly welcome such incentives and allowance as a show of appreciation to our healthcare workers that risk their own and even own family’s safety to make sure we are cared for and protected, but, there are some other healthcare workers that in my view are also part of the whole management ecosystem that has fallen between the cracks and may not qualify for such incentives.

For example, we were informed that an Emergency Department(ETD) doctor may not qualify for the allowance as they were not considered as part of the COVID-19 team, even though they expose themselves to the risk when they see patients day in and day out including respiratory infection patients that may carry the COVID-19 virus as well. We hear of news on how some patients were not truthful with their history to the doctors, thus exposing them to the virus. That is why now ETD workers often wear protective gear when they see patients.

Only if there is a suspected COVID-19 patient, the ETD doctors then send them to the COVID area but they are not stationed there every time thus may not qualify for the full allowance which requires them to be there for at least 15 days in a month. Some doctors and medical workers also go through weekly rotations in these area and may not be station for at least 15 days in this area to qualify for full allowance, but it does not mean they don’t deserve to be rewarded for their efforts and hard work.

I believe doctors, houseman, medical assistants, and staff nurse, in the ETD should also qualify for this allowance as they are also exposed to the risk of such patients before they are triaged to the Covid stations or even in emergency situations, need to intubate such patients also exposing them to the risk of the infection.

On top of that, other medical workers that may not qualify but also part of the ecosystem of the management for COVID-19 such as pharmacist or officers that maybe also be involved in procurement of medical equipment, and medicine and essentials such as PPEs and other protective gear. While they may not be directly exposed to patients, their services is so important to ensure such supplies and equipments are sent to the hospital and clinics so others are protected. Pharmacists may also risk exposing themselves when dispensing medicines to possible COVID-19 patients especially asymptomatic ones.

This may also include Psychiatrist, clinical psychologist and counsellors that play an important role now especially to offer Psychological First Aid(PFA/MHPSS) not just to patients and their family, but also first-liners that are facing burn out and high stress due to the intense period. Experts have even predicted that Mental health cases will see a significant increase during this time and after especially with families dealing with loss, “spreader or even survivors guilt”, or even economic difficulties due to impact of the virus.

Another important group that miss out are the hospital cleaners and support service staff. Why are these blue-collar workers not prioritized even though they themselves play an important role to sanitize and clean wards and hospital to make sure the virus does not spread further even in a hospital setting. They themselves also risk being exposed due to lack of PPEs being supplied to them.

While i strongly welcome the allowance given to those directly involved in the management of COVID-19, but i urge the government to address some of the loopholes and extend the coverage to those also that are working hard to make sure the whole ecosystem of management of COVID-19 runs efficiently as a sign of appreciation for their hard work during this war against the “unseen”.