MOH Not Closing Sarawak General Hospital, Covid-19 ‘Under Control’

A person alleged that 51 health care workers in SGH have been diagnosed with Covid-19 as of April 21.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) said today that Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) would not be locked down, despite 51 health care workers in the hospital allegedly contracting Covid-19.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said close contacts of people testing positive for Covid-19 in the public hospital have been tested and would be quarantined for 14 days.

“In the meantime, services will continue because we have other staff to cover for them,” he told a press conference, adding that respective areas in Sarawak General Hospital have been sanitised.

“It’s under control.” 

He also said Covid-19 infections in SGH may have come from the outside community, as there are three clusters in Kuching: the Italy patients-under-investigation, a church gathering, and health care workers.

“Those involved in ICU (intensive care unit) care or taking care of Covid patients, none of them have been infected. These are the health care workers from other departments. That’s why we’re looking into confined spaces, like the pantry. Maybe the infection in the pantry, so sanitising activities have been done.”

He pointed out that the same was done at Teluk Intan Hospital that reported Covid-19 cases among staff, where the infected departments were shifted to temporary services areas pending sanitisation. 

An anonymous letter published in The Malaysian Insight today by a person called “A Concerned Citizen” alleged that 51 health care workers in SGH have been diagnosed with Covid-19 as of April 21. The first few staff to test positive had reportedly been exposed to the first Covid-19 victim who died in the MOH hospital end last month. 

The author alleged that the patient was admitted to the medical ward and intubated by the anaesthetic team without personal protective equipment (PPE). The anaesthetic team was allegedly allowed to resume work with face masks on Day 14 after their first swabs came back negative on Day One. However, on Day 14, one quarter of those tested were positive, including at least two doctors, who had already by then resumed their daily rounds and eaten meals in the pantry with coworkers without masks on.

This meant, according to the author, that the anaesthetic and medical department had been exposed to Covid-19.

“The anaesthetic team who had contact with the doctor who tested positive was then triaged to red, green and yellow – depending on their point of contact with the positive doctor. Almost 50 staff had to be contact traced and triaged.  

“Had they just waited until the second swab results returned, they could have avoided this cascade,” said the writer.

The author also claimed a discrepancy in triaging, saying that the protocol for the “kesihatan” side of the Sarawak Health Department, which is in charge of district health clinics, implements home quarantine until all swabs on Day 1 and Day 13 come back negative. 

But for the “perubatan” side that is in charge of hospitals, unless health care workers are “red-coded”, they are allowed back to work even before the first swab result comes back, which usually takes 36 to 48 hours.

“This caused a few asymptomatic HCW (health care workers) who were eventually tested positive, but returned to work before the results were out, causing potential spread of infection to others,” said the writer.

“There was no talk of any lockdown or partial lockdown of the hospital. In all other states in Malaysia, there are other hospitals that can be mobilised in case another is shut down. Unfortunately, in this vast and economically rich state, SGH stands as a lone ranger to cover the district of Kuching.” 

The writer pointed out that in other locations, unlike SGH, an Enhanced Movement Control Order is imposed if more than 40 Covid-19 cases are reported.

“Many HCW from medical, anaesthesia, peadiatrics, obstetrics, emergency department and orthopedics have now tested positive. Unless some strict, clear and logical protocol is put into place, this will just spiral out of control.”

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