Sibu Hospital Prioritises Shots For Covid-19 Frontliners Amid Grumbles

A Sibu Hospital doctor complains about the proposed exclusion of housemen from the first round of Covid-19 vaccination, but the Sarawak state health department says trainee doctors and other hospital staff will not be left out of inoculation.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Sibu Hospital will vaccinate staff working in Covid-19 related wards and departments with the first batch of vaccines, before inoculating other hospital workers when additional doses arrive, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Sarawak state health department director Dr Chin Zin Hing said Sibu Hospital is expected to receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines containing 308 vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or 1,848 doses, on February 25. Vaccination for Sibu Hospital staff will start immediately after the vaccines arrive.

“Vaccination process will be staggered based on the batches of vaccine doses that the hospital will be receiving. Sibu Hospital will not exclude any house officers or any hospital staff from the Covid-19 vaccination list,” Dr Chin told CodeBlue yesterday.

“The amount of vaccine allocated to Sibu Hospital will be sufficient to cover all the staff as long as they are eligible and consented for the vaccination.”

Sibu Hospital director Dr T. Nanthakumar said his MOH facility, a Covid-19 hybrid hospital, has about 2,253 staff.

He told CodeBlue that the initial 1,848 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be given to 1,848 hospital workers; their second dose will be taken from the next shipment scheduled to arrive at Sibu Hospital two weeks from February 25.

Dr Chin and Dr Nanthakumar were asked to respond to a complaint by a Sibu Hospital doctor about the proposed exclusion of house officers, or trainee doctors, from the first round of Covid-19 vaccinations.

The anonymous doctor told CodeBlue that a list of Sibu Hospital staff for the first batch of Covid-19 inoculation only included specialist medical officers, staff nurses, and medical assistants from the emergency and trauma, medical, and anaesthesiology departments.

Medical officers from other departments, including the surgical department, have been put on a wait list. But housemen across Sibu Hospital, according to the anonymous doctor, have not been listed either on the priority or wait list. The hospital supposedly promised to give the trainee doctors vaccines “if there is extra”.

“The housemen in the emergency department definitely screen potential Covid-19 cases. So do the housemen in medical and anaesthesiology,” the anonymous doctor said.

“In a few cases, the patient’s antigen RTK (rapid test kit) was negative on admission. But the RT-PCR was positive in the ward, in surgical wards even, technically putting those surgical-based housemen at risk.”

The doctor also pointed out that coronavirus infections have been rising in Sarawak and surgeons in Sibu Hospital have previously operated on patients infected with Covid-19, putting them at risk.

Sarawak has reported multiple Covid-19 outbreaks in recent weeks. Sibu is currently the worst-hit district in the country’s largest state with over 1,000 active cases. Kapit has the second-highest number of active cases in Sarawak at 158.

“I believe all staff of the hospital should get the vaccine; no selection process needed,” said the doctor. “The hospital has been working as a team. And everyone deserves the vaccine at this point.”

Sarawak Local Government and Housing Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian told CodeBlue: “Sarawak is almost as big as West Malaysia. MOH’s standard norm doesn’t fit Sarawak needs.

“For Sarawak, MOH not only needs to apply one standard throughout Malaysia, but over and above, rather than unintentionally leave us out at best and discriminate at worst.”

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