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Healthcare frontliners near burnout

Urgent need for more manpower, equipment at hospitals in Tawau, Semporna: Doctor

28 Oct 2020 / 14:41 H.

PETALING JAYA: Frontliners at hospitals in Tawau and Semporna, which have seen one of the highest Covid-19 cases in Sabah, are on the verge of burning out from physical and mental exhaustion if they do not get sufficient manpower and equipment reinforcements soon.

Sabah saw a record high 927 cases on Monday since the third wave of infections began earlier this month.

The number of cases continued to be in high three-digit figures with an average of almost 700 cases daily since Oct 18.

A doctor at the Tawau Hospital, who has been heavily involved in treating Covid-19 patients, spoke to theSun on condition of anonymity yesterday.

He described the situation as barely bearable for now, but warned of burnout if reinforcements do not arrive soon.

“We are holding on at this point. Our intensive care units (ICU) are always full as we are getting an average of 80 cases daily. What we need right now is more manpower and equipment,” he said.

According to the doctor, the hospital has opened up a new area with tents to attend to patients.

While space is not a constraint, manpower – especially nurses and paramedics – have not been sufficient.

The hospital has received some medical help from the peninsula, where medical personnel are also struggling to cope.

“Some of the staff have not gone back since December to see their families and the psychological effect is taking a toll on them.

“In addition, when a medical staff gets infected with Covid-19, others have to take over and do double shifts of up to 15 hours.”

Medical supplies such as N95 masks and Tyvek suits are also needed fast.

“We are going to run out (of these items) soon. Some non-governmental organisations have been kind enough to supply us with masks, but we need more as these equipment can only be used once,” said the doctor, who foresees the spike in cases in Sabah lasting for another month or two.

“The frontliners are getting mental health assessment and psychiatrists coming to talk to us, which is great to support our mental health. But we need manpower in the hundreds and more equipment support for us to help the patients.”

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said the Ministry of Health (MoH) is not doing enough in Sabah.

Its president, Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy, said in a statement that the bed occupancy in hospitals and quarantine centres at the red zones do not correspond to the figures presented during the daily press conference.

“We urge MoH to present the statistics based on individual hospitals and quarantine centres used in treatment of Covid-19 in Sabah to prevent giving a false sense of security amid the alarming conditions at red zones,” the statement said.

Subramaniam also urged MoH to increase the resources and infrastructure at these centres, as well as turning unoccupied hotels into quarantine centres.

The president added the workforce can be supplemented by recruiting general practitioners in the vicinity for a nominal fee.

“The public and the private sectors in healthcare need to work together especially during times like this.”

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