Sarawak Government Urged To Provide The Frontliners With Adequate Protective Equipment


Press Statement By Irene Chang:

The high number of our medical frontliners in both Sibu and Miri Hospital who have been tested positive for Covid 19 is causing the people to wonder if our health workers are well protected, well equipped and well trained to fight the pandemic. In the short time since the MCO was declared in Sibu on 16 January 2021, 21 health workers in Sibu Hospital and 20 health workers in Miri have been infected. This is a worrying situation because we cannot keep our patients in the hospitals safe unless our doctors, medical officers, nurses and all health workers are safe. And when our health workers are not safe, we won’t have a functioning health system to fight against the pandemic.

With such a high number of positive cases among the medical staff in such a short time, the question therefore should be asked if our health workers are provided with adequate PPE such as the right type of masks, googles, respirator helmets, gloves and gowns. With World Health Orgainisation (WHO) having confirmed that the virus
can survive in the air for a few days, is every one of our health workers who work in high-risk departments in the hospital (and not only those who are assigned in the Covid 19 departments) provided with the full set of PPE to protect themselves from being infected?

One of the medical facilities where there is a high exposure is the Emergency Department where there is high risk of positive covid 19 patients seeking treatment for their symptoms before they are confirmed positive through the swab testing.

These medical staff who attend to these patients should also be provided with the full PPE to protect themselves from Covid 19. Also of much concerned is the interconnected ventilation system between zones and offices in the Emergency Department where the virus may be spread and hence, putting the healthcare workers and other patients at increased risk of contracting the disease. It is therefore not surprising that most of the medical staff who were tested positive in Miri Hospital were from the Emergency Department, as has been confirmed by the State Health Director yesterday. As for Sibu Hospital, even though it was not revealed, it won’t be surprising if the positive cases also include the medical staff from the ED as well.

The State Health Ministry should also ensure that each and every one of our medical staff should also be well trained in recognising and responding to suspected cases of Covid 19. This is to minimise the infection among themselves and patients. Since this is the first time since the pandemic started in March 2020 that Sibu and Miri Hospitals have reported so many cases, it won’t be unexpected that there are many junior medical staff members who may be inexperienced and anxious in handling and treating Covid 19 patients on a large scale. The state of mind of our health workers should not be ignored as most would be anxious and stressed out from the increased risk of infection as well as worrying about passing the infection to their families. All this mental and emotional stress might lower their immunity and make them more vulnerable to infection. The State Health Ministry should therefore ensure that support groups are readily available to those who are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Since both Sibu and Miri hospitals have now recorded positive Covid 19 cases among their health workers, I urge the State Health Ministry and State Government to take immediate proactive action to prevent the same thing from happening in other hospitals in the State. The medical frontliners are putting their lives at risk for the people and the least the Government can do is make sure that they are well protected from contracting the disease themselves. And if we want to overcome the pandemic, our medical frontliners have to be protected from the pandemic at all cost and by all means.