Emergency Staff, Pharmacists, Psychiatrists, Hospital Cleaners Deserve Covid-19 Allowance: MP

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii wants emergency workers, pharmacists, essential medical supplies logistics coordinators, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counsellors, and hospital cleaners to be covered too.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii called for the special Covid-19 allowance to cover other health care workers beyond doctors and those directly involved in managing the outbreak.

The Sarawakian MP said Emergency and Trauma Department (ETD) workers, like medical officers, housemen, medical assistants, and staff nurses, should qualify for the special RM600 monthly Covid-19 allowance because of their risk of exposure to people with possible coronavirus infections, pointing out that some patients have been reportedly dishonest with doctors about their history.

“While I strongly welcome such incentives and allowance as a show of appreciation to our health care workers that risk their own and even own family’s safety to make sure we are cared for and protected, but, there are some other health care workers that, in my view, are also part of the whole management ecosystem that have fallen between the cracks and may not qualify for such incentives,” Dr Yii said in a statement.

“I urge the federal government and Ministry of Health (MOH) to extend the special RM600 monthly Covid-19 [allowance] to cover a larger group of health care workers who are also part of the ‘ecosystem’ of management of Covid-19 patients, including Emergency & Trauma Department (ETD) doctors, hospital cleaners, pharmacists, essential medical supplies logistics coordinators, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and even counsellors.”

CodeBlue reported earlier today an MOH circular dated March 30 that said government health care workers at the frontlines of the Covid-19 outbreak are eligible for the full RM600 monthly coronavirus allowance if they work at least 15 days in one calendar month, or RM300 for fewer days’ work.

An ETD doctor from a government hospital in Sarawak, however, told CodeBlue that emergency staff were deprived of the special Covid-19 allowance because they were not considered part of the coronavirus team, even though ETD workers in protective gear triage all severe acute respiratory infection patients.

The doctor said ETD staff’s working days are only counted when they’re on duty at Covid-19 stations, which is not frequent enough to qualify them for the full coronavirus allowance.

Pharmacists have also complained about not getting the special Covid-19 allowance, even though they dispense medicines to coronavirus patients and risk infection when interacting with, especially, asymptomatic ones.

The MOH circular said officers involved in the procurement of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), during the outbreak are not eligible for the allowance, as they were not “directly involved in the chain of duties as frontliners exposed to the risk of Covid-19 infection”.

“While they may not be directly exposed to patients, their services are so important to ensure such supplies and equipment are sent to the hospital and clinics so others are protected,” Dr Yii said.

The DAP lawmaker, who is a doctor by training, said mental health professionals should also receive the special RM600 monthly Covid-19 allowance, citing experts who predict a significant increase in mental health cases as families deal with loss, “spreader or even survivor’s guilt”, or economic difficulties.

He said psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors played an important role in offering psychological first aid not just to patients and their families, but also stressed frontliners facing burnout, as Malaysia continues to record new Covid-19 infections above 120 cases every day.

“Another important group that [are] missed out are the hospital cleaners and support service staff. Why are these blue-collar workers not prioritised even though they themselves play an important role to sanitise and clean wards and hospitals to make sure the virus does not spread further even in a hospital setting?

“They themselves also risk being exposed due to lack of PPEs being supplied to them,” Dr Yii said.

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