Covid-19 And Sabah: How Can You Contribute? — Dr Timothy Cheng

To NGOs and individual donors, get in touch with your local hospital to find out the exact needs to ensure that your donation is fully utilised.

I am an orthopaedic surgeon from Hospital Duchess of Kent, Sandakan and agree wholeheartedly with the article “Covid-19: Stop Neglecting Sabah! — Dr Tachdjian”. Here are some ways you can contribute to the fight against Covid-19 in Sabah:

Gene Expert Test Kit Contribution
In Sabah, standard PCR tests are only available in Lahad Datu, Kota Kinabalu and Tawau. Results can take up to five days to be obtained — causing unnecessary delays in treatment such as operations and prolonged hospital stay.

Other tertiary hospitals have gene expert test kits which are PCR tests that test two genes out of the usual three by the standard PCR. However, test levels have run as low as a week’s supply here in certain centres and rationing has to be done, causing further delay in patient care. Donations can be made directly to suppliers (contact your local hospital) and request for test kits to be sent over.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) Donation
I wrote about the lack of coordination of PPE donation last April, more than a year ago. There was a proposal for an electronic PPE distribution system – but was not taken up by the ministry.

The situation is no different now. Donors have no idea whether what they donate is really needed; or where to donate to and how much. As a result, many donors have resorted to asking staff on the ground (or the store pharmacist, who may be kind enough to reveal details) on what is really needed.

Administrators of hospitals and state health departments are reluctant to sign off official letters asking for help as it comes across as being inadequate and failing to handle the situation. This should not be the case as even the DG of Health has acknowledged the help of NGOs and individual donors in contributing PPE/ equipment throughout the pandemic.

If you are an NGO/ individual donor, please understand that getting an official request of help from the hospital would be nearly impossible. I urge you to get in touch with your local hospital to find out the exact needs to ensure that your donation is fully utilised. There will be an official letter to fill up prior to handing over your contribution and also official receipt and acknowledgement of the items.

False Security
To the administrators, please do not be afraid of admitting the real situation especially to the public. What is wrong with asking for help? This article states that we have “enough beds” to handle the pandemic.

As of 2nd Sept 2021, 10 out of the 21 hospitals housing Covid-19 patients/ PUI (patients-under-investigation) have a bed occupancy rate (BOR) of more than 100 per cent, while another six have BOR of >80 per cent.

Average intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy rate of the whole state stands at 150 per cent (147 of 224), while two hospitals have more than 200 per cent ICU occupancy rate! No, we do not have enough beds.

Many general wards have been repurposed to Covid-19 wards, and non-Covid-19 patients have been put on beds that are too close to each other and cannot be propped up — again affecting patient care resulting in more hospital-acquired complications.

We must not comfort the public who often become complacent, especially when they think the health care system “can cope” with the pandemic.

It has been more than a year – we cannot afford to fight this much longer. Let the public know the grave situation that we are in, that they may adhere to SOP; contribute when able to; and that we may win this together.

A Call For Help
To our newly appointed health minister YB Tuan Khairy Jamaluddin — congratulations and please take heed of our call. We need urgent help and would be grateful if you would come to the ground to see the issues that plague us, issues that have been there even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Visit the East Coast of Sabah as well to see what we sorely need, both in human resource and facility/ infrastructure.

We are grateful for the surge capacity for the five states, including Sabah. It is much welcomed and will bring some respite, especially by increasing the vaccination rate. However we hope that the above issues can also be addressed simultaneously to ensure sustainability of our efforts.

Dr Timothy Cheng is a junior orthopaedic surgeon at Hospital Duchess of Kent, Sandakan.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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