Press Statement By Irene Chang:
The response by the Sarawak Health Department (Malaysiakini October 1, 2021) seems to be an arbitrary dismissal to the many allegations made in the recent letter allegedly made by a doctor from Sibu Hospital to CodeBlue.
Surely the lengthy letter by the doctor which contained a few allegations including the manipulation of data on the statistic of hospital bed use in the Covid wards as well as in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the shortage of manpower and of resources such as oxygen ports for Covid-19 patients and the resulting weariness and exhaustion of most medical personnel should deserve a better response than that “the number of available beds is dynamic and will change according to circumstances.” (Malaysiakini October 1, 2021).
In every hospital setting, the number of available beds every day is always dynamic and constantly changing. The allegations therefore obviously point to a state of events over a relatively long period of time rather than to a matter of a few days.
The allegations, especially on the data manipulation, are serious and a more specific and detailed explanation should be given to allay Sibuans’ concern on the true picture of the battle against Covid-19 infection in Sibu as well as on the state of the healthcare system in our hospital. The failure of such explanation might give an impression that the data have indeed been manipulated and was not in fact an erroneous perception by the doctor concerned.
The allegation of lack of manpower and resources is not something which is new. Indeed, Sibu Hospital has widely been seen to be much neglected, fit only to receive second hand and broken-down ventilators in the height of their battle against Covid-19.
For decades, the hospital has been under equipped and depend so much on communities and corporates for the timely supplies of consumables and medical equipment. Even the molecular lab with its PCR machines for the testing of Covid-19 were partially sponsored by the corporates in Sibu. Indeed, the last two years have borne the truth on how much the hospital has been depending on the generosity of the local communities to keep it going and well run.
The problem of the shortage of healthcare workers was already there even during the pre-covid days.
However, the need for more manpower has intensified manifold during the last two years due to the escalating numbers of Covid-19 cases.
This lack is not only in the specialists, doctors and medical officers but also in the contract staff nurses who, once they have completed their training in the nursing colleges in Kuching and Sibu, are usually posted out of Sarawak to Semananjung and Sabah for their permanent postings.
This is in spite of the need by Sarawak herself for the services of these staff nurses in hospitals such as Sibu Hospital. And yet, many of these nurses have expressed their desire to stay back in their hometown in Sarawak but they were never given a choice.
So, the question is why should this choice not be given to these healthcare workers especially when we need them and they desire to stay back. Also, it is expected that the deployment of healthcare workers from Peninsular to Sarawak would also be met with as much unhappiness among those deployed.
A permanent feasible solution therefore needs to be urgently found for the problems raised by the anonymous doctor in the letter to CodeBlue. The usual response of sending temporary health workers to the hospital after every outcry is emotionally and physically exhausting and depleting the morale of every healthcare worker in Sibu Hospital and those who are being deployed to work in Sibu. Let not the persistent cries for help fall yet on more deaf ears of those sitting high up in the corridors of power.