By now we have accepted that community transmission of Covid-19 is deeply entrenched in the state. The numbers of those infected every day are staggering and the number of severely ill patients and deaths overwhelming our healthcare system ability to cope are all too real.
It is with this that we welcome the government recognition of the evolving crisis and the implementation of the “whole-of-government” approach, which referred to the internal manpower of MOH (Ministry of Health), and the “whole-of-society” approach, involving volunteers, to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 infections.
While these approaches certainly give a big boost to our fight against the pandemic, more can be done.
Among the central key factors in our fight against the pandemic are :
1) Testing, Tracing and Isolation of Infected Individuals
The faster and more efficient we do the above, the better we are in containing the spread. Local on the ground feedback had reported that tests results may be up to even one week or more.
We have no official indication of the test turnover time from the authorities. Certainly, test results for tracing of individuals depend heavily on availability of test kits, reagents, labs, manpower both laboratories and in the field doing the contact tracing.
2) Adequate Hospital Beds, Equipment and Manpower
When hundreds of patients are diagnosed with Covid-19 everyday with a significant number severely ill or need hospitalisation, the need for all medical resources are being increasingly challenged.
The number and types of equipment, PPEs and its distribution are constantly depleted. Many doctors, nurses and health care workers are being driven to the brink of exhaustion and there is a constant need for replacements or reliefs as the situation gets increasingly dire.
3) Public Compliance to SOPs and Stay at Home
The public are the frontliners and our most crucial ” vaccine” in fighting the pandemic. By each person doing their part, thinking twice about every action they do and everyone they meet and its Covid repercussions, the curve can be flattened.
However, public actions are determined by multiple complex factors of their understanding and acceptance of the seriousness of the crisis, public health messaging, their need to put food on table, financial security, and even how political leaders react to the crisis, among others.
Needless to say, how successful we are in fighting the pandemic depends on many fine prints and details, but crucially more can be done to fight this pandemic from a ” whole of government and whole of society approach”.
What More Can We Do?
The whole-of-government approach should not be confined to the Ministry of Health alone. It can involve all other ministries and government machinery.
Dispensing emergency funding for the crisis, inter-ministry provision of human resources, transporting of manpower and equipment, enhancing communications channels and public messaging in the state are some of the possible key additions.
The whole-of-society approach can involve more than recruitment of volunteers. Key to the engagement of the public and civil societies are transparency and accountability.
Important data such as Covid tests’ turnover time, the barriers and constraints, equipment and PPE information that are constantly updated, and area of need can help enormously in getting everyone to assist.
Above all, COORDINATION and INTEGRATION of the multiple agencies, public, civil societies and community response by state and central government determines how successful we are in overcoming the pandemic.
It’s not a health problem only, but a Whole-of-Society problem. Leaders, elected officials and all of us must step up, for this is the time to save Sabah and to save Malaysia.
Dr John Teo is an obstetrician & gynaecologist in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.