There is an acute shortage of manpower at the district level and at government clinics. Staff at these government departments are struggling to cope with the surge in cases of Covid-19.
Currently, the District Health Officers are tasked with the daily management duties of triaging, screening, assessing, contact tracing, monitoring and home monitoring of Category One and Two Covid-19 patients.
They also manage acute and chronic non-Covid-19 cases on a daily basis. The officers feel like they are pulled in every direction and with the surge in cases, the system is on the verge of collapse.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) must take a serious view of the situation and urgently address these manpower shortages, especially in the Klang Valley, where cases are the highest.
Continuing shortages in personnel will lead to compromises in the standard of care and further burnout among health care workers. Cases of Covid-19 have already spread into the community and therefore we can expect cases to continue rising in the coming weeks.
We can’t afford to wait for the situation to worsen. Immediate steps are needed.
The MOH should consider roping in housemen awaiting postings, medical students, nursing students, and also medical assistants with basic medical knowledge and training to help on the ground with contact tracing.
The monitoring of Covid-19 Category One and Two cases should be digitised and linked to MySejahtera. With proper monitoring and coordination enabled through digitisation, more private GPs would also be willing to participate in its programmes.
The MOH should also go paperless and digitise as much as possible as it can greatly reduce the time staff are spending on paperwork. More efficient use of time is needed now at the district level and government clinics, where Persons Under Investigation (PUI), Persons Under Surveillance (PUS) and Covid-19 positive patients being reported are increasing.
Staff at these facilities are overwhelmed, and therefore processes need to be simplified while the highest standards of care are maintained.
As for non-Covid-19 cases, it is time the government rope in the services of private practitioners. A number of these acute and chronic cases, for a nominal fee, can be outsourced to private clinics or private hospitals. This will allow the MOH to focus its resources on managing Covid-19.
The MOH cannot take on the fight against Covid-19 on its own. It needs all the help it can get right now. The whole of society and whole of nation approach should be put in practice.
Prof Dr Subramaniam Muniandy is the president of the Malaysian Medical Association.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.