KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals did not witness an increase of deaths due to non-coronavirus conditions, Dr Adham Baba said, despite interrupted care during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Although the country has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, MOH has not stopped any services for non-Covid-19 patients, especially for emergency and semi-emergency cases in all MOH hospitals in the country,” the health minister said in his written Dewan Rakyat reply on December 9.
“Based on the statistics, there has not been a rise in the death rate in MOH hospitals from January till September 2020, as compared to the number of deaths in hospitals during the same period of time in 2019.”
Dr Adham was replying to Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, who asked the minister to state the government’s plans in dealing with rising deaths and cases due to non-Covid-19 diseases, especially those who missed their follow-ups during the pandemic amid movement restrictions.
Dr Adham, however, did not give the statistics of cases that died at home or in private hospitals due to non-Covid-19 illnesses.
The health minister responded by saying that non-Covid-19 cases were handled by mobilising equipment and specialists to specifically treat non-Covid-19 patients.
“In Sabah, MOH worked with the Malaysian army, whereby a field hospital was set up in Tawau, Sabah, to provide services for non-Covid-19 patients, especially cases that required surgery,” Dr Adham said.
The health minister said that MOH has extended the operation hours for specialist clinics and operation theatres to after-office hours, including on Saturdays, for some hospitals.
Moreover, MOH has optimised the use of non-specialist hospitals to carry out procedures or certain surgeries through the cluster hospital concept.
MOH also outsourced certain services to private hospitals, including surgeries and procedures.
Virtual clinics and calling up patients for short services and to give new appointment dates were also done, Dr Adham said.
In a recent study by University Malaya and King’s College London, it was found that cancer treatment was severely affected during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as many oncology departments in major hospitals in Malaysia had to scale down their elective surgeries to two days a week. Besides that, they have shortened clinic hours and prioritised radiotherapy and chemotherapy administration based on the magnitude of potential treatment benefits.
The study found that disruption of timely access to cancer care could lead to worsening of patients’ cancer, leading to advanced stages.