Seeking outside help for extra beds


Covid-19 patients being transferred to a waiting bus along Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway for transport to a quarantine and treatment centre in Penang. — Bernama

WITH increasing pressure on the public healthcare system, the state is urging private hospitals to set aside 30% of their bed capacity for Covid-19 patients who can afford it.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow hoped the Health Ministry could urge private hospitals to follow the directive in view of the rising Covid-19 cases in the state.

“Private hospitals have done a lot during the pandemic but if they can aid public hospitals, it will help take away pressure on the public healthcare system.”

Chow said the rise in Covid-19 cases over the past two weeks (since mid-Aug) had brought great pressure on the public healthcare system.

“In line with the strategy lined up by the state Health Department (JKN), we are entering a mitigation phase.

“This is to reduce loss of lives and to prevent the healthcare system from being completely paralysed.

“The state will be taking certain approaches to this, such as adding more oxygen beds and wards at public hospitals.

“The capacity of Covid-19 treatment and quarantine centres (PKRC) will be increased and the state is in discussion with hoteliers to increase quarantine facilities as well.

“This would be dedicated to patients in Categories One and Two who intend to undergo quarantine away from their homes,” he said during a press conference at Komtar yesterday.

Category One comprises asymptomatic patients, Two (mild symptoms), Three (experiencing pneumonia), Four (have pneumonia and require oxygen), and Five (critical stage, requiring ventilator support).

Chow believes that the virus is already in the community, and urges the public to adhere to the standard operating procedure while the state continues with its vaccination process.

“We hope that when we increase the vaccination rate, cases will start going down.

“Like in Selangor, they used the vaccination rate as a yardstick to reduce the number of cases.

“Here, we hope that by the third week of September, we can see 100% of the population receive at least their first dose,” he said.

Chow said according to a data from the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), 1.13 million of the adult population in the state had already received their first dose as of Aug 29.

“This makes up roughly 81% of the adult population. In total, 54% of the state’s adult population have received both vaccine doses.

“We hope by the first week of September, 60% of our adult population will be fully vaccinated.

“We hope we’ll get enough vaccine supply to achieve our targets and for us to see a reduction in serious cases,” he said.

Penang Hospital Emergency & Trauma department head Dr Kwanhathai Darin Wong, who was also present, said while facing increasing pressure, hospitals were also having tight resources at the moment.

“For now, dedicated PKRC will only take in high-risk patients or those with comorbidities, specifically those in Categories Three and Four.

“For public hospitals, they will only take in serious cases.

“As such, we advocate for patients in Categories One and Two to undergo home quarantine or to quarantine at hotels,” she said.

State Deputy Health Director (Public Health Department) Dr Rafidah Md Noor said presently, all the Covid-19 wards at public hospitals in the state had reached full capacity.

“This was despite increasing the bed capacity up to 876 beds for non-critical cases and 70 beds in ICU wards.

“As of Sunday, we have 9,333 active cases with 565 deaths recorded.

“Of these active cases, 1,646 are in wards and PKRC while 7,687 are placed under home surveillance,” she said.

Dr Rafidah said they were looking at seeking additional resources and manpower as well as outsourcing help in order to manage the increasing number of cases.

“But nevertheless, to avoid increasing the rate of infection, vaccination is very important and we advise the public to get their jabs.

“The vaccine does not make us immune, but it prevents serious side effects and the risk of hospitalisation,” she said.

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