‘My Entire Family Got Covid-19, Nobody Called Us’

By Boo Su-Lyn |

PJ resident Ms Yong says she paid RM2,000 for two private ambulances to take her Covid-infected elderly parents-in-law, who had underlying medical conditions, to Sungai Buloh Hospital.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — Ms Yong and her five family members all contracted Covid-19, including her father-in-law who developed serious symptoms, but health officials never called or visited them to issue quarantine bands.

The 49-year-old Yong had earlier tested positive for Covid-19 on January 5 when she voluntarily got screened at a private drive-in laboratory along Jalan Universiti in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, as she experienced very bad backache on January 3. Yong also had borderline fever and kept coughing without phlegm. She was not a known contact of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Yong — who lives with her family in a single-storey house in Section 12, Petaling Jaya — said her 78-year-old father-in-law, who tested positive for Covid-19 on January 6, deteriorated quickly within a day. Yong’s 78-year-old mother-in-law, two daughters aged 16 and 21, and 17-year-old son also contracted the coronavirus.

Her elderly father-in-law — who had high blood pressure and a liver condition — experienced fever, severe diarrhoea, and became delirious, not responding to questions and just giving his family members a vacant stare, scaring Yong. Her father-in-law was also sleeping for up to 12 hours at a time and was not drinking water.

When Yong called Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), the public university hospital told her that it could not admit her mother- and father-in-law and that the Covid-19 cases should be admitted to Sungai Buloh Hospital instead, Selangor’s Covid-19 treatment hospital. UMMC is an admitting hospital for patients-under-investigation and confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Sungai Buloh Hospital, she said, did not answer her calls. Calls to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) after office hours also went unanswered.

“I was pretty upset because the old man is deteriorating. You’re so afraid something might happen at night,” Yong told CodeBlue in an interview yesterday, declining to disclose her full name.

UMMC, she claimed, refused to hear from her and wanted verification from a doctor. As both Yong and her mother-in-law, a pensioner, see UMMC for other conditions, Yong wanted to admit her parents-in-law to the university hospital.

So Yong called Regal Ambulance Service, a private ambulance near her home in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The ambulance service came with its medical director, Dr Loong Shi Yong, who liaised with both UMMC and Sungai Buloh Hospital.

Dr Loong told CodeBlue that UMMC told him that it could not accept Covid-19 patients unless instructed by the Malaysia Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999. When he called MERS 999, they informed him that Covid-19 patients are usually sent to Sungai Buloh Hospital and that no ambulances were available for Yong then.

Dr Loong said Regal could provide ambulances, after which MERS 999 told him to check on the patients and report back to them. Regal Ambulance Service then sent paramedics to check the vitals of Yong’s parents-in-law, who found that Yong’s mother-in-law’s blood pressure and glucose levels were high.

According to Yong’s account, both UMMC and Sungai Buloh Hospital were pushing her case between them. She also said she was initially informed that Sungai Buloh Hospital did not have available beds.

“I told Dr Loong — you ask them lah: ‘The patient’s family now is just asking, if here cannot send, there cannot send, who are we to sue at the end of the day?’”

Ms Yong, 49, Petaling Jaya

Dr Loong told CodeBlue that after Regal reported to MERS 999 about the condition of Yong’s parents-in-law, MERS 999 discussed with an infectious disease consultant from Sungai Buloh Hospital and the MOH hospital accepted both cases.

Yong said she was informed that MOH officials would pick her parents-in-law up with an ambulance. They waited three days, but no MOH ambulance came. So, on January 9, Regal Ambulance Service took Yong’s parents-in-law to Sungai Buloh Hospital, three days after Yong’s father-in-law tested positive for Covid-19 and worsened.

Yong paid RM2,000 for two ambulances (one ambulance could only fit one patient), including the cost of the medical staff’s protective gear.

“What’s going on? They just need to send medical fellows here, take the bad ones to hospital, leave the not-so-bad ones at home. We’re not asking you to bring the whole family,” said Yong.

“MOH should do what they should do. Even if they want to validate that we should not be in Sungai Buloh or what, give us a letter. If anything happens, we shall hold them responsible. We still don’t have pink bands till now. No MOH officers have come to our house yet.”

Ms Yong, 49, Petaling Jaya

By January 14, Yong would have completed the coronavirus 14-day incubation period if she had indeed gotten infected on December 31, as she believes.

Yong, her son, and her father-in-law played badminton twice on December 31 at the Selangor Badminton Association hall in Kampung Attap and on January 2 in Kayu Ara.

Yong’s father-in-law and son had tested positive for Covid-19 on January 6, followed by her mother-in-law and her 16-year-old daughter on January 7 or 8. Her 21-year-old daughter initially tested negative, but later tested positive for Covid-19 on January 9 or 10. They all got tested in the private sector, except for her daughter who got tested under the Selangor state government’s SELangkah programme.

Yong’s ex-husband — who went out for dinner with her family members on January 3, before Yong got tested on January 5 — has also tested positive for Covid-19, along with his son. A man that Yong’s family played badminton with at the Selangor Badminton Association hall has contracted the coronavirus too.

Yong said neither she nor her family members left their house after testing positive for Covid-19, despite not receiving any home quarantine orders from MOH.

“We’re very responsible citizens,” she said. “The more I get upset because people like us should get treated. We follow SOP, we follow the rules, at least one person come and see my children lah.”

Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran. Picture courtesy of the DAP.

Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran, who first highlighted Yong’s case, said in a statement yesterday that his office tried to reach out to the Petaling district health office when his constituent contacted his office on January 8 (Friday) for help.

“We were informed an officer will contact the family shortly. Unfortunately, nothing happened by Saturday,” Rajiv said.

“This case brings up many questions that need urgent attention. Is KKM not contacting those who have been tested positive? While we understand that the beds and quarantine centres are full, KKM should still reach out to these people and check on the severity of their condition.

“In this case, the two elderly people could have had serious medical complications because hospitals were not accepting new Covid cases and nobody was checking up on them.”

Sungai Buloh Hospital head of medicine Dr Suresh Kumar said Wednesday that his facility had a delay in admitting severely ill Covid-19 cases, but denied that patients were turned away.

Yong said she and her family, including her parents-in-law who are still warded in Sungai Buloh Hospital, are doing fine at home, although her recovery was “a bit slow compared to the children”.

“Nobody came until today. Nobody called us until today, not a single soul.”

Updates on January 15, 7.10pm: This article was updated with quotes from Regal Ambulance Service’s medical director in paragraphs 9-11, and paragraph 14.

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