KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — About 14.2 per cent of frontline health workers suffered severe mental disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study by the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Institute for Health Behavioural Research.
The study, based on 6,616 workers surveyed in both public and private health settings, also found that 24.7 per cent said they lacked child care support at home, while another 16.7 per cent said they did not receive sufficient moral support at work.
Additionally, a psychosocial support helpline service established between government agencies and Mercy Malaysia saw nearly 8 per cent of 223,990 total calls received from March 25, 2020, to September 19, 2021, were from frontline workers, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
Many experienced acute stress and were given psychological first aid (PFA) intervention and counselling. Only 0.1 per cent were identified as having early signs of depression and were referred to a specialist (family medicine or psychiatrist) for further evaluation and treatment.
He said this in a written reply in Parliament on October 11 in response to a question by Senator Vell Paari Samy Vellu, who inquired about measures taken by MOH to address mental health and financial issues faced by frontline health workers.
The MOH has since implemented several initiatives specifically for frontline workers to boost their morale including visits by top management; the establishment of mental health services and psychosocial support at the national, state, and district levels as well as at hospitals and clinics; and having rotation schedules.
The government has also provided special Covid-19 allowances for frontline health workers, which amounted to RM916.6 million involving 1,836,260 claims as of September 30.
The federal administration has also given allowances for health workers involved in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) and distributed a one-off RM500 payment as announced under Budget 2021.
The MOH has also extended the maximum period of the use of substitute leave for frontline workers from six months to 18 months from the date of accumulation of overtime work. The extension applies to overtime work gathered from March 18, 2020, to December 31, 2021.