KUALA LUMPUR, April 30 — Health authorities today denied allegations that a Covid-19 cluster at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), infecting 56 health care workers, was caused by managing coronavirus patients.
The federal Ministry of Health (MOH) said that more than half of the 56 SGH cases, or 29 health care workers, were related to the biggest Covid-19 cluster in Kuching — a church gathering that reported 176 cases as of today.
“Based on investigations so far, no [SGH] case was caused by the management of confirmed positive cases at Covid-19 wards or at the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital,” Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
Out of the 56 Covid-19 cases among SGH staff, 35 have been discharged from hospital after recovering from the coronavirus, with the remaining 21 under treatment.
An anonymous person, in a letter posted to The Malaysian Insight, claimed that the first few SGH health care workers to test positive had reportedly been exposed to the first Covid-19 victim who died in the MOH hospital at the end of March.
“During the time of admission, the patient had been admitted for having ‘pneumonia’ despite the classic presentation of high fever and cough. He was admitted to the medical ward and intubated by the anaesthetic team at midnight without personal protective equipment (PPE), as they were told he was ‘low risk’ for Covid 19,” the person wrote, urging a lockdown on SGH, the main public hospital serving Kuching.
Dr Noor Hisham said today that 2,003 close contacts in the SGH cluster have been identified as of April 29, with 1,950 health workers testing negative for the coronavirus. All affected health workers will be screened according to guidelines.
“These active containment measures have been taken to ensure continuity of service at SGH. As of now, critical services at SGH are operating as usual and MOH is certainly keeping a close eye on this matter.”
Among the Covid-19 infection control measures taken at the main government hospital in Sarawak’s state capital are disinfection of affected areas, mobilising staff from nearby hospitals and public health clinics, as well as social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) according to need and close monitoring of in all public areas.
According to Dr Noor Hisham, SGH is also transferring low-immunity patients to nearby facilities, arranging accommodation for health care workers, and running scheduled thorough screenings at all high-risk locations in the hospital.
A health care worker from SGH, who claimed to be working at the ground level, wrote to CodeBlue about how “countless” health care workers had tested positive for Covid-19 and brought down at least 10 more coworkers due to quarantine. The person alleged poor conditions in health workers’ quarantine centres, like fungus-infested rooms.
The SGH staff also complained about “haphazard” testing and quarantine of health care workers in the hospital, claiming that all of them were told to return to work even before their Covid-19 test results from their Day 13 swab came in, resulting in the spread of coronavirus among the staff.
“Being a health care worker at the ground level, we all feel abandoned, mistreated, and being sent out to die like the pawns that we are. If ever we are found positive, good luck to our teammates because it’s their turn to die on the frontlines with no reinforcements whatsoever,” the SGH health care worker wrote.
Sarawak State Health Department director Dr Chin Zin Hing told a press conference in Kuching earlier this afternoon that SGH has tightened infection control practices, besides changing team designations and working hours to avoid possible Covid-19 spread.
When asked to confirm if none of the SGH health care workers had been infected by a Covid-19 patient, Dr Chin declined comment, telling CodeBlue that he was not authorised to speak as only the DG and Health Minister could comment publicly.