Sibu Hospital Only Vaccinating 50% Staff Early With Limited Supply

By Kanmani Batumalai | 18 March 2021

Sibu Hospital says that there are still 150 staff working in Covid-related wards that have not received the Covid-19 vaccine yet.

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Sibu Hospital said it can only vaccinate half of its staff with at least one dose in the first phase of the national Covid-19 inoculation programme due to limited vaccine supplies.

Sibu Hospital director Dr T. Nanthakumar said his Ministry of Health (MOH) facility in Sibu, the worst-hit district in Sarawak with the highest number of total reported Covid-19 cases in the state, is prioritising health care workers who are directly involved in treating Covid-19 patients. 

Sibu, a red district, reported 888 coronavirus infections in the past 14 days, the highest in Sarawak, almost twice as many as Miri, the second hardest-hit district with 465 cases in the past fortnight. Sibu has 675 active Covid-19 cases, the highest in Sarawak.

“Definitely the vaccine that we receive is not sufficient to cover everyone. We only covered about 50 per cent. There is another 50 per cent that has not been covered. That one will be covered in the second phase in April,” Dr Nanthakumar told CodeBlue Tuesday.

“We have already vaccinated a number of housemen. Those who are working in Covid-related areas directly, they already got it. 

“I still have 150 staff who work in Covid-related wards, who are still not yet vaccinated. So my priority is to vaccinate those staff who work in Covid-related areas or wards.”

Dr Nanthakumar also said that housemen who are not allowed to work in Covid wards haven’t received the Covid-19 vaccine. However, he maintained that every health care staff in Sibu Hospital will be vaccinated in April.

Sarawak Local Government and Housing Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian said the fourth air shipment of Covid-19 vaccines for Phase One of the national vaccination programme arrived in Kuching yesterday. The next Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments of 124,020 doses and 125,190 doses for the country are scheduled to arrive in Malaysia respectively on March 22 and March 29, according to Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. Malaysia will also receive 100,000 Sinovac vaccine doses on March 22.

Sibu Hospital director Dr Nanthakumar was responding to complaints from two anonymous hospital staff to CodeBlue about house officers who have yet to get vaccinated. One claimed that the only housemen who have received shots were from the medical, emergency, and anaesthesia departments. 

“In the meantime, staff working in the administration received the vaccination even earlier than us,” the anonymous source told CodeBlue in an email.

The source quoted a message that he or she received about the delay of vaccination for housemen that claimed “almost all hospitals are doing this the same way”.

“Two wrongs do not make one right. Why would they think that if other hospitals are leaving out house officers in the first batch, that makes it acceptable to treat us the same?” the source mentioned. 

Another anonymous source told CodeBlue that house officers from the surgical, orthopaedic, obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G), and paediatrics departments have been left out from the Covid-19 inoculation process. 

The Sibu Hospital staff pointed out that trainee doctors in the O&G department have to screen patients for Covid-19 in the labour room, as patients’ antigen rapid test may be negative on admission, but their RT-PCR test may turn out positive in the ward.

“In fact, we did have house officers who contracted the virus at work and some had to be home quarantined after being exposed to Covid positive patients in the ward.”

Dr Nanthakumar said Sibu Hospital has vaccinated 61 house officers, while 95 are in the waiting list.

“It is not about housemen or not housemen. Everybody will be vaccinated.” 

He also stated that so far, a total of 1,338 doses, all first doses, have been administered in Sibu Hospital. 

“Everyone who has been vaccinated with the first dose, we automatically reserve a second dose for them,” Dr Nanthakumar said.

This means that the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will be given starting from March 19 in Sibu Hospital. 

It is to be noted that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has maintained its recommended three-week dosing interval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, instead of delaying the second dose so that more people can be inoculated with at least one dose.

Dr Nanthakumar previously mentioned that Sibu Hospital, a Covid-19 hybrid hospital, has about 2,253 staff. However, when CodeBlue contacted him, he did not mention the number of doses that the hospital has received.

The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme was launched on February 24, targeting to incolulate 500,000 frontliners with the first dose of the Covid-19 shot by March 31.

Then, the government aims to move into Phase Two of the national Covid-19 inoculation drive on April 1, targeting 9.4 million of the population aged above 60 or those with underlying medical conditions.

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