I urge the newly minted health minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, to visit Sabah urgently in order to understand the dire situation on the ground.
As reported by local news outlets, Sabah doctors have shared their experience with the Covid-19 battle in hospitals — that they have been left with no choice but to turn away patients due to lack of sufficient intensive care unit (ICU) beds and equipment.
These doctors end up having to choose who lives and who dies — they were even given directions to prioritise younger patients, to the detriment of older patients. This is not supposed to be happening.
If these doctors have enough ventilators, then they wouldn’t have to constantly make decisions on who gets ventilators, based on age group.
I hear that hospitals in Sabah are clearly out of ICU beds and oxygen supply — even the morgues are backlogged, despite the rosy picture painted by the government on how the Sabah situation is still manageable.
According to doctors working in the emergency department, they have often asked for more ventilators. The government’s reply was to say that they are on their way, but it has been about two months since the requests, and there is no indication when they will arrive. The doctors have said that many Covid-19 patients have died despite being treatable.
It is time for Khairy to be up to speed with all these issues. We would like to hear from him on what kind of concrete steps and actions been taken to alleviate the problems. Have the Ministry of Health (MOH) made any emergency orders for the purchase of beds, oxygen supply, other medical equipment such as ventilators?
Between August 23 to 29, a total of 86,927 Covid-19 tests were conducted in Sabah. Out of this, 20,983 of them turned out to be positive. This translates to a Covid-19 positivity rate of 24.14 per cent. This is a very worrying figure.
Not only it is the highest amongst all the states in Malaysia, it is also way higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended positivity rate of 5 per cent.
In fact, the WHO has advised governments that before reopening the economy, positivity rates during Covid-19 testing (i.e., out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive) should remain at 5 per cent or lower for at least 14 days.
Community Development and People’s Wellbeing minister Shahelmey Yahya had on August 25 denied that the Sabah government has been passive in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Has the Sabah government taken any proactive steps to increase Covid-19 testing in all parts of Sabah? Look at Selangor, for example: the state government has conducted free community testing programmes, conducted by the state assemblypersons.
In Sabah, the government seems to be taking a wait and see attitude, with the hope that Covid-19 cases won’t increase any further, by doing nothing more. To the Sabah government: please wake up! Covid-19 will not magically go away. There is still a lot to be done.
In conclusion, we should start with mass testing in the community. The next thing the Sabah government can do is to revive the health portfolio in the state cabinet, so that important decisions can be made, and better coordination between the state and the federal government be achieved.
I am sure the new health minister will have no objections, and will assist the Sabah government in such matters.
Chan Foong Hin is the Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu.
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