SDMC And The State Health Director Should Clarify The Numbers Of Health Workers Tested Positive For COVID-19

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Press Statement By Irene Chang:

The State Health Director and SDMC should clarify if there were 6 or 13 health workers from Sibu Hospital who have been tested positive for Covid 19. It is noted that the SDMC press statement dated 19 January had stated that 6 health workers were tested positive whereas the press statement by the State Health Director on the same date had stated that it was 13. So who has it correct? SDMC should also reveal the details on what are the job titles of these 6 or 13 staff from the Hospital since the definition of a health worker may range from doctors to administration staff. These authorities have to come clean not because we want to stigmatize the individuals but because people should be more concerned and worried if the health workers who are positive are doctors or nurses with close contact with patients rather than if the health workers are from the administrative staff. This is also to impress upon the people just how serious and critical is the pandemic situation in Sibu and how close and vulnerable to breaking down is the medical system in Sibu Hospital.

Our doctors, nurses, medical officers, laboratory technicians and most health workers have been working round the clock and putting their lives on the line since the spike in the positive cases from the Pasai Siong cluster. And yet SDMC is still giving people a daily impression that everything is under control as in allowing STPM and SPM students to attend physical classes despite so many concerns being expressed by parents. And this in turn causes the people not to fully appreciate the critical level by which our medical front liners are operating. Hence, we see people generally not taking this MCO as seriously as they had during the first MCO in last March. I believe this is due to the fact that the people have not been made to realize the true situation on the ground and the dire consequences of what would happen when our medical system and health facility truly break down from the worsening situation every day.

The announcement that we have to outsource the Covid 19 samples taken in Sibu to Sarawak General Hospital, Sarawak Heart Centre, Borneo Medical Centre, Universiti Malaysia, Gribbles, a private laboratory and even to private laboratories in Kuala Lumpur where 1,500 samples were reported to be sent yesterday (19 January 2021) should trigger our hot button that not everything is under control. The outsourcing shows that our own lab in Sibu Hospital can no longer cope because of the overwhelming numbers of swab tests taken from the people. Indeed, it was posted in the Facebook of the Chairman of SMC that there was a backlog of 10,000 cases and which number has not been refuted by any authority concerned.

We should also be mindful of the announcement that four quarantine and low-risk patients treatment centres (PKRCs) have been set up in Sibu with the capacity of a total number of 1,173 beds and which are expected to be operative a week from today. While it is good that SDMC is preparing for the worst, it also shows that they are expecting the number of Covid 19 positive cases in Sibu to reach that number in one or two weeks.

The State Health Director has also announced that they have mobilized staff from other hospitals and clinics to help out at Sibu Hospital to ensure that our hospital can still function. This clearly shows that our Sibu Hospital medical front liners need urgent help in order to keep going.

In order that our people would play their part to bring down the numbers, the real situation on the ground and the dire consequences of Sibu Hospital breaking down should be made known to them. In the event that the numbers are allowed to continue to surge, does our hospital have enough ICU beds and ventilators to treat not only Covid 19 patients but also to treat patients not related to Covid 19. If it is allowed to surge, it would not be unforeseeable that our doctors might come to the day when they have to make the dreaded decision of choosing to save the life of one patient over the other.

As a responsible government, the State Government should make known to the people the critical situation in Sibu. While we appreciate their intention not to cause panic among the people, they need to provide sufficient information to the people so all would know the dire consequences if the situation is allowed to drag on. It would also spur on more community spirit to come together to fight the pandemic. There is no way this situation can be overcome without the willing cooperation of the people.

How soon or how late can we come out or even if we could ever come out from this black pandemic tunnel, rests in the hands of the State Government as they are the ones holding the driving wheel in their hands.