Covid-19 Continues Spreading Among Klang Valley Hospital Staff

By Kanmani Batumalai | 19 January 2021

Serdang Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, and Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Klang Hospital are still facing Covid-19 outbreaks among health care workers, hospital staff allege.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Covid-19 outbreaks among health care workers in public hospitals in Serdang, Kuala Lumpur, and Klang are still active, a month after they were officially reported.

Several anonymous doctors from Serdang Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), and Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Klang Hospital (HTAR) in the Klang Valley alleged that more new Covid-19 cases are emerging among the hospital staff every day.

When CodeBlue contacted a medical officer in HTAR on January 13 and asked if the Covid-19 outbreak in the Klang general hospital in Selangor was still active, the doctor said: “Yes, it is still active among health care workers. I’m not sure what the numbers are like.”

The doctor also alleged that the outbreak among health care workers in HTAR and their quarantine has led to staff shortages in the hospital across departments, including the medical department that handles Covid-19 cases.

“Certain departments requested volunteers from their team to help out in the medical department since they are overburdened and lacking in staff,” the anonymous source stated.

“Those who have symptoms and/ or had contact with Covid-19 patients also had to undergo quarantine. Therefore, this also contributes to the lack of staff in many departments.”

Nonetheless, the doctor highlighted the efforts made by HTAR in conducting a screening process for all the patients who are being admitted in the medical ward to prevent another Covid-19 break in the ward.

Three other anonymous HTAR doctors similarly claimed that medical officers from other departments — with one citing psychiatry; ear, nose and throat; ophthalmology; and dermatology — were pulled into the medical department to help with Covid-19 cases.

CodeBlue sighted a letter from HTAR medical deputy director Dr Md Razis Ramli to a doctor dated last month that instructed their temporary placement at the medical department.

One of the anonymous HTAR doctors interviewed by CodeBlue complained that pulling doctors from other departments deemed “non-essential” by hospital management into the medical department disrupted non-Covid health services.

“Just because Covid is around doesn’t mean other illnesses disappear,” the doctor told CodeBlue yesterday.

“Why don’t they take in the thousands of contract medical officers waiting, rather than burning out all the doctors from other departments in the hospital? So many surgeries were postponed, cancer treatments backlogged, and an increase in patients with psychological and psychiatric illness such as depression, stress, anxiety and suicide.”

HTAR director Dr Hasni Hanapi denied the allegations of an ongoing coronavirus outbreak among staff and the secondment of health workers from other departments to the medical department.

“The allegation is not true. As per today, all medical wards have resumed their normal operation. 80 per cent of positive [Covid-19] health care workers discharged well and have come back to work,” Dr Hasni Hanapi told CodeBlue on January 13.

“There is no deployment of health care workers from other departments to medical units. The health care workers’ cluster in HTAR ended on January 4 this year.”

Serdang Hospital Covid-19 Outbreak Growing

Serdang Hospital. CREDIT: Official Facebook page for Serdang Hospital

An anonymous staff from Serdang Hospital in Selangor claimed a growing number of Covid-19 cases among health care workers there since December last year.

“Yes, there has been an outbreak among health care workers since December 2020. I can’t say for sure where it started, but departments currently affected are general medicine, cardiology, emergency department and cardiothoracic among others,” the anonymous source told CodeBlue.

The Serdang Hospital staff stated that the number of doctors in quarantine and confirmed positive cases among health care workers are increasing every week.

“Every other department, especially general medicine, has been overworking their staff. This is not only affecting us, but also putting our patients in danger of getting infected with Covid-19,” said the anonymous Serdang Hospital staff.

“At least 20 to 30 per cent of new Covid-19 cases among the patients were transmitted by infected health care workers, including intensive care unit (ICU) and cardiac care unit (CCU).”

Anonymous Serdang Hospital staff

Besides that, approximately six to eight medical officers from the cardiology department of Serdang Hospital were said to have been infected by Covid-19. The first case among health care workers in the cardiology department was identified earlier this month, the anonymous source told CodeBlue yesterday.

“It started with a patient who was admitted and the RT-PCR test turned out to be positive. Then, one by one, staff nurses and medical officers started becoming positive [Covid-19].”

When CodeBlue contacted Serdang Hospital, a staff from the director’s office refused to comment on this issue as the hospital management is required to enquire about this matter.

Covid-19 Outbreak In HKL Nephrology Ward

Emergency department at Kuala Lumpur Hospital. Picture taken by Arjun Thanaraju on 10/01/2020.

At the same time, CodeBlue also spoke to an anonymous doctor from Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), who said on January 13 that the hospital was still experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak among its health care workers.

“There is an outbreak among doctors, staff, and some patients in the HKL nephrology ward.”

According to the anonymous doctor, when an HKL staff is exposed to a Covid-19 infected patient and if the staff wears a face mask or face shield, they won’t undergo an RT-PCR swab test. The staff is assumed not to be infected.

The doctor also acknowledged the possibility of health care workers contracting the coronavirus outside the hospital as well. However, the doctor complained that not enough RT-PCR swab tests are being carried out for health care personnel.

“Are we doing enough for our health care workers? They are our frontliners who are handling the Covid-19 patients on the ground. If we don’t keep them healthy, what is going to happen?”

HKL’s corporate communications unit did not respond to CodeBlue to verify the complaints raised by the hospital staff.

Malaysia registered a total of 1,880 Covid-19 cases among health care workers as of December 21 last year. Of them, more than 70 per cent of the cases were recorded in the third wave of Covid-19 epidemic in the country which began in September last year.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah reported on December 18 that HTAR, Serdang Hospital, Sungai Buloh Hospital, HKL, Ampang Hospital, and Selayang Hospital were among the hospitals which registered a high number of Covid-19 cases among health care workers.

Dr Mustapha Kamal from Sungai Buloh Hospital’s Covid-19 response unit told CodeBlue on January 11 that there was no current Covid-19 outbreak among hospital staff.

Boo Su-Lyn contributed to this report.

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