Malaysian Doctors Bemoan Face Masks, Protective Equipment Shortage

By CodeBlue | 17 March 2020

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM) claims this has been the case since January.

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — A doctors’ group today raised alarm on the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for private frontline health workers facing the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM) claimed that this has been the case in Malaysia since January, the beginning of the pandemic in the country, and raised concerns about their health.

“We appeal to the Ministry (of Health or MOH) to help address this as our doctors and staff are putting their lives at risk attending to and treating all patients coming to their clinics,” FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow said in a statement.

Dr Chow predicted widespread closure of private general practitioner (GP) clinics, which will see a flood of patients seeking treatment at public health care facilities instead.

“This will be disastrous in the current scenario,” he said, as he urged MOH to implement a means of diverting sufficient stock of essential PPEs to the private sector for medical staff and patients.

The Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) similarly complained yesterday about a shortage of face masks and other PPE equipment, urging the government to halt exports of such items.

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month warned of the repercussions of the severe global disruption to the supply of PPE, which includes gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.

The pandemic has infected more than 500 people in Malaysia, with three known clusters. Globally, hundreds of thousands have been affected, and many have succumbed to the deadly new Covid-19.

Dr Chow also rubbished talk of only needing to wear face masks if a person is symptomatic. This, he said, is illogical, as those who are asymptomatic can also spread the virus unknowingly.

“Furthermore, some symptomatic patients do not wear mask(s) or simply cannot get masks because of no supply,” he said, adding that there is “ample data” around the world to back compulsory masking.

Dr Chow, meanwhile, lauded MOH’s strategy to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission in the country through pre-emptive quarantine, early diagnosis, and compulsory masking.

“The best outcome will be when this is done as a concerted national effort,” he said. “The Ministry of Health cannot fight this war alone.”

At present, all FPMPAM members are advised to adhere to MOH guidelines on Covid-19 containment, which include referring all prima facie cases to the nearest government hospital for further management.

“We advise all patients under self-quarantine at home to regularly update their condition with their family doctor, keep good personal hygiene, including proper hand washing, and take all necessary sensible precaution(s) to prevent spread of the virus.”

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