KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — A report highlighted the importance of publicly funded health systems after a Covid-19 patient received free services at a government hospital and quarantine centre for nearly a month.
Mr Lambert — a 62-year old Covid-19 survivor interviewed by Fifa Rahman for her report titled “The Malaysian Response to Covid-19: Building Preparedness for ‘Surge Capacity’, Testing Efficiency, and Containment”, in collaboration with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) — pointed out the swiftness in his hospital admission after presenting to a public health clinic in Malaysia last March 23 with symptoms and history of close contact with a positive Covid-19 case.
He was given a nasopharyngeal swab test and diagnosed as positive for Covid-19 when he arrived at Sungai Buloh Hospital, a Ministry of Health (MOH) facility, and was promptly admitted into an isolated room, after which he was given an X-ray that showed the novel coronavirus had attacked his lungs.
“The doctor informed me that the virus had attacked my lungs. I was given three types of medication—I think one of them was mentioned (in the news) as maybe not very good, but I think it really helped me,” said Lambert.
In his testimony, Lambert also described the process of discharged patients being placed in quarantine once their conditions were deemed stabilised, where a nasopharyngeal swab test is performed every two days.
“After nine days in the hospital, my condition was better than before. I basically had no more coughing and no more shortness of breath, so they transferred me to a place nearby, outside the hospital.
“This is where they quarantined people who were already stable. It was a hostel that formerly was some kind of training institute for health workers. They put me there with other Covid-19 patients who were still testing positive, but who were relatively healthy and who didn’t need much medical attention.
“There they did the swab tests every two days. On the sixth test, on the 15th of April 2020, I finally got a negative result and was allowed to return home,” said Lambert.
Lambert’s experience highlighted that the cost of all of the services and treatment he received throughout his stay at Sungai Buloh Hospital and the quarantine centre from March 23 to April 15 were all borne by Malaysia’s public health care system.
The services he received included diagnostics, medical treatment, and meals consisting of breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner, according to DNDi, a Geneva-based research and development non-profit.
“The importance of a public health system has started to be realised elsewhere, even in countries dominated by private insurance companies and capitalist health systems,” said the DNDi report, citing New York that mobilised private and public hospitals together to share equipment and staff for the Covid-19 outbreak in creating “a de facto public health system”.
In the United States (US), Seattle Times reported that a Covid-19 patient who was hospitalised for 62 days racked up a US$1.1 million (RM4.7 million) bill, with the bill running to 181 pages. However, the 70-year-old man doesn’t have to pay most of the expenses as he’s covered by insurance, including Medicare. Congress has also allocated over US$1 billion to hospitals and insurance companies for the Covid-19 outbreak.
Malaysia’s relative success in curbing the widespread outbreak of Covid-19 was also reflected in a number of other countries in the East, including Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam, according to the DNDi report, which it said dismantles beliefs that health security, expertise, and robust health systems were predominantly concentrated in the West.
Authors of the DNDi report pointed out that although the 2019 Global Health Security Index ranks the US and the United Kingdom (UK) first and second in terms of global health security, those countries are the top two suffering the most Covid-19 casualties worldwide.
As of June 18, the US has the highest number of Covid-19 fatalities at nearly 120,000, while the UK is in third place with over 42,000 deaths. The US also has the highest number of coronavirus cases at over 2.2 million, while the UK has the fifth highest number of Covid-19 cases at more than 299,000.
Malaysia has reported 8,515 Covid-19 cases and 121 deaths from the coronavirus as of yesterday.
While Asian countries like South Korea, with just 280 Covid-19 fatalities, have recorded significantly lower death tolls compared to the US, UK, and European countries, Western nations generally have older populations than Asian countries. The novel coronavirus is particularly brutal towards elderly people, who are at higher risk of falling seriously ill or dying from the Covid-19 disease.
Authors of the DNDi report opined that “it would perhaps be prudent to have a reassessment of criteria for this index”, but more importantly, a separate analysis on the middle-income country response towards the Covid-19 pandemic is necessary.