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Sabah doctor tells of nurses in tears, doctors on sleeping pills
Published on: Wednesday, October 28, 2020
By: FMT
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Kota Kinabalu: A healthcare worker in Sabah claims the biggest challenge for the state to manage the spike in Covid-19 cases is the lack of manpower in hospitals.

The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said although many nurses from the peninsula had been mobilised to Sabah, it was not enough to resolve the shortage.

“It is true that a number of healthcare workers from Kuala Lumpur came here last week, but once they arrive, they must undergo quarantine for another one to two weeks.

“Once they have completed their quarantine, most of them cannot start work immediately as they are ‘juniors’ and inexperienced and have to be taught again.”

Speaking to FMT, the doctor claimed the lack of hospital staff, primarily nurses, caused many to work overtime to a point where they faced problems with their mental health.

“There are nurses who cry because they are overworked, apart from being stressed and scared, because everyday they have to face patients who have been infected with the virus. Who wouldn’t be scared?

“They have also had to make many sacrifices, they do not have much spare time and have to separate themselves from their families for fear of bringing back the disease.

“There are also doctors in the intensive care unit (ICU) who have resorted to taking sleeping pills because of overwork and stress.”

The doctor agreed with Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy, who said the information on medical facilities and bed occupancy in hospitals and the ICU did not correspond with the figures presented during the health ministry’s daily press conference.

“It is true (Subramaniam’s statement) … the health director-general says there are enough beds in the ICU, and only 70% of them are occupied, but they are also taking into account the ICU beds in other districts.

“If a patient is in critical condition, they will be sent here (Hospital Queen Elizabeth) so, of course, (the ICU beds) in other states aren’t full. Frontliners in Keningau, Tawau and Sandakan told me their ICU wards are filled.

“For me, whatever the DG says is too broad and unlike the real picture here. I hope he can come over and see the situation for himself.”

Despite the extreme challenges, the doctor said they were doing everything they could to manage the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“We have fought to the maximum, and this does not include non-Covid-19 cases such as cancer. In all of Sabah, only Hospital Queen Elizabeth II (QEH II) is left to operate for cancer treatment. Only elective surgeries are performed there since the other hospitals have been turned into Covid-19 treatment centres.”

The doctor said this was also a challenge for QEH II as it lacked manpower after many of its nurses were mobilised to treat Covid-19 cases, adding that the hospital was not given priority in terms of medical equipment as most of it was sent to Covid-19 treatment centres.

The doctor urged the government to pay more attention to QEH II as it was the only non-Covid-19 hospital in the area.

The doctor also expressed gratitude to NGOs and to the private sector which have provided assistance for hospital staff to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Sabah.

“Actually, many of the medical machines, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR) and personal protective equipment (PPE) were donated by NGOs.

“If we wait for the centre, who knows how many would have died before it (medical equipment) even arrives.”



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