HCWs among COVID-19 patients, private hospitals committed to assist
Twenty-four healthcare workers (HCWs) are among the current active coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in Malaysia as of 21 March, with two in intensive care.
This is an increase from the 15 cases among HCWs (12 public, 3 private) reported by the MOH on the preceding day.
In an interview with the Malay Mail, MOH Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that investigations revealed all cases of HCW infection were due to close contact with the first and second generations of the Masjid Jamek Sri Petaling tabligh congregation, and not due to failure to adhere to protective measures. [https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/21/health-ministry-19-public-five-private-health-workers-hit-with-covid-19/1848737]
“This virus knows no boundaries, regardless of your race, religion or wealth status, even more so if you are a healthcare worker at the frontline of this war,” said Noor Hisham in a public Facebook post dated 20 March. “Our simple message to the public today: please help us to help you. Stay at home.”
The news comes on the fourth day of the national Movement Restriction Order which has seen much of the country’s social and economic activities put on hold to reduce social interactions which may spread the disease.
HCWs have been one of the major groups at risk in countries dealing with COVID-19. In Italy, the current epicentre of the global pandemic, a reported 2,629 HCWs have been infected by COVID-19, representing 8.3 percent of the country’s total cases. [https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/rising-number-medical-staff-infected-coronavirus-italy-200318183939314.html]
At the time of writing, the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia stands at 1,061 active cases under treatment, with 114 additional patients discharged and 8 deceased.
Private hospitals committed to fight despite PPE shortages
Malaysia’s largest association of private healthcare providers has declared its readiness to help the MOH in COVID-19 efforts.
“The Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM), through its member hospitals, is ready to work with the Ministry of Health Malaysia in managing the current surge of cases of COVID-19,” said Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh, APHM president, in a press statement dated 16 March.
He added that strategies and recommendations for public-private partnership in managing the national COVID-19 situation are in the works through meetings between the MOH and healthcare providers, as well as between APHM and its member hospitals.
The APHM represents more than 140 private hospitals in Malaysia and includes networks such as Columbia Asia, Gleneagles, KPJ, Pantai, Sime Darby, and Sunway, as well as specialist centres such as the National Heart Institute and those of several university hospitals.
In the same statement, Kuljit also stressed the urgency of addressing the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply shortage currently affecting private hospitals as well.
“Private hospitals are unable to source for three-ply and N95 face masks and personal protective equipment. It is a serious situation which impacts the safety of patients and staff involved,” said Kuljit. “Local manufacturers continue exporting such items while private hospitals are crying out for supplies. It’s time the MOH and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) work together to address this.”
As of 17 March, the export of face masks from Malaysia has been halted by the KPDNHEP under the Control of Supplies (Prohibition on Export) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. Parties who fail to comply with the regulations may be penalized with fines up to RM500,000, jail terms of up to 3 years, or both. [https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/03/17/minister-bans-malaysia-from-exporting-face-masks/1847543]