The Hidden Truth Of The Hidden Island: Hospital Sarikei — Sarikeian Frontliners

The welfare of health care workers should not be compromised, and their concerns should be taken seriously.

A big applause and thank you to all the frontliners or backliners from Sarikei Hospital, Sarawak. 

In response to the article about the Sarawak state health department’s (JKNS) denial of manipulating Sibu Hospital’s bed occupancy rate (BOR), we have a strong belief that the same thing is happening over in Sarikei division. 

We, as frontliners, believe that the data released by Sarawak’s state disaster management committee (SDMC) does not reflect the real scenario in Sarawak. 

The data should be accurate and transparent, as it increases public awareness and helps in reallocating existing resources to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These are a few things we want to highlight: 

1. Virtual Beds 

Early in the year when the pandemic first struck, the “virtual bed” concept was proposed, with the aim to increase the denominator of Covid intensive care unit (ICU) beds. Is this the reason why we can move into Phase Two or Three faster than other states? 

2. PCR Or RTK?

Earlier this month, we received a directive from JKNS instructing us to perform RTK as a confirmatory test for Covid-19 cases in Sarawak, with no PCR test needed if a RTK positive result is detected. However, we should take note that only PCR results will be taken into account as part of national data. Are we trying to under-report actual cases in Sarawak? By the way, after a few days, it reverts again to the original order. 

3. Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang 6.0 2021 (BKSS)  

We were happy with the announcement by the Sarawak state government about financial aid for frontliners starting July 2021 for six months, but was this merely political propaganda? We only received the first payment in August 2021, and subsequently, there have been no further announcements. No one is able to provide the exact answer, as everyone is not aware of what happened, including the state treasury department in Kuching.    

4. Quantity = 1/ Quality 

When the number of patients increases drastically, is the quality of health care still at an optimum level? My guess is no. All of us know that the lack of manpower is a long-time issue over here, and it became more prominent during the pandemic. If suboptimal care is given to Covid-19 patients, what about non-Covid patients? In order to focus on Covid-19 patients, all non-emergency surgery has been postponed until further notice. Some patients, especially those who can’t afford to seek out private health care, are still waiting for treatment, and if they are lucky enough, we will meet them in the operation theatre eventually. If not, we will never meet them again. 

5. PKRC Is A Nightmare 

Three Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centres (PKRC) are located in Sarikei division. The term “physical bed” actually takes into account the number of mattresses, and personal space was not taken into consideration. Patients are lying on the floor with no walking space and some are even sleeping next to the dustbin. The floors of the washrooms are also wet, which poses a risk to pregnant women and elderly patients. Water supply is constantly interrupted. We want to give our best service to our patients, but too many limitations are hindering us from doing it. What about the Hippocratic oath?  

6. There Is No Sponsorship 

Unlike frontliners in Peninsular Malaysia, we have no access to food sponsored by corporations. We even need to buy infusion pumps or drip stands for our patients ourselves. But thank God, we do have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) here. 

7. Health Care Worker = Disposable Container 

Burnt-out health care workers is not a new concept to us. Being on call on alternate days or working 60 hours per week makes all of us physically and mentally exhausted. Voices from the ground are not heard at the higher level. What shall we do? 

8. “Asymptomatic Close Contact Health Care Workers Should Not Be Swabbed”

These are the exact instructions from the higherups, in order to avoid reduced manpower. What if we are asymptomatic carriers, spreading the virus to all our non-Covid patients, colleagues, or even our family members? More than 40 health care workers have been found to be Covid-19 positive in a small district hospital. It happened not because we were careless or because we didn’t follow standard operating procedures — it was due to the slow response during an outbreak in the non-Covid ward. Ignorance at the higher level caused more health care worker losses in the battle against the pandemic. What will happen to the remaining staff? They will have to work more than 60 hours per week! 

9. “We Wish To Be Infected, So That We Can Have 14 Days’ Leave”  

A verbal order about leave being frozen was issued to all frontliners during the surge of Covid-19 cases, but the director herself took leave for one week to send her children abroad to further their studies. Some of us have not taken leave for years. Aren’t we all in the same boat during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

Health care workers are the sailors who sail the ship with fellow Malaysians across the sea of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their welfare should not be compromised, and their concerns should be taken seriously.

We are aware that manpower is the main issue across Sarawak, but why is it still persisting, and why are people still leaving the system? Shouldn’t we take care of our own backyard before taking care of others? 

Health is a human right! We pray hard that the pandemic will end soon with more vaccinations and strict standard operating procedures imposed to stop the chain of infection. Together we can do it!

Kudos to all my heroes, my health care workers!  

CodeBlue is publishing this letter anonymously because civil servants are not permitted to speak publicly without prior authorisation from their superiors.

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

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