State calls for laws to allow private hospitals to take in Categories Three to Five Covid-19 patients

(From left) Joseph Ng (PH-Ayer Itam), Heng Lee Lee (PH-Berapit) and Lim Guan Eng (PH-Air Putih) sharing a light moment during break time.

PENANG is pushing for laws to allow private hospitals to take in 30% of Categories Three to Five Covid-19 patients to ease the burden of public healthcare facilities.

State health committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin said at present, only 5% of Covid-19 patients have been taken in by private hospitals, which have 66 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, 49 high dependency unit (HDU) beds and coronary care unit (CCU) beds and 78 ventilators.

“We are requesting the government to use an Act to enable private hospitals to take in 30% of Categories Three to Five patients, as they are now taking in only Categories One and Two patients.

“Doing so will allow them to play their role and alleviate the burden on other existing healthcare facilities,” she said in her winding-up speech at the Penang state assembly sitting yesterday.

Dr Norlela said the state Health Department had also requested for more low-risk quarantine and treatment centres (PKRC) to be set up in hotels, which have proper beds and toilets.

Opposition leader Datuk Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor (BN-Sungai Dua) raising a point in the meeting at the state assembly building in Lebuh Light, George Town.Opposition leader Datuk Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor (BN-Sungai Dua) raising a point in the meeting at the state assembly building in Lebuh Light, George Town.

“Staying in community halls is similar to staying in hospitals.

“Instead of crowding at such halls, patients can stay in hotels and with its cost borne by the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), which is currently paying RM50 daily for patients to stay in PKRC.

“It will help support the tourism industry as well,” she said, adding that there are currently only two hotels in Penang functioning as PKRC.

Category One are patients with no symptoms while Category Two are patients with mild symptoms. Category Three are patients with lung infections while Categories Four and Five are those who require ICU care.

Earlier, several backbenchers raised the issue of insufficient PKRC for Categories One and Two patients in the state.

M. Satees (PH-Bagan Dalam) said there was a need to set up more PKRC due to the increasing number of cases in the state.

“Many of them were brought-in-dead (BID) cases and having more PKRC will reduce these numbers,” he said, adding that there were more than 7,000 people who were quarantined at home.

Satees was earlier briefed by Dr Norlela, who said Penang had 119 BID cases so far, of which 12 people had completed their vaccination while 107 of them had yet to.

As many people were quarantined at home, Ong Ah Teong (PH-Batu Lanchang) asked Dr Norlela if there was an allocation for assemblymen to buy self-test kits and oximeters to give out to constituents, to which she agreed and would forward the request for funding from the State Financial Officer.

Gooi Hsiao-Leung (PH-Bukit Tengah) proposed that factories set up their own PKRC instead of using houses in residential areas.

“These factories are using houses in residential areas as quarantine centres and they will bring large groups of these workers to place them at these houses in the middle of the night.

“We have no way to control this,” he said.

In response, Dr Norlela said the state had received 13 applications to set up private PKRC but only two were willing while the rest had withdrawn due to their inability to meet strict standard operating procedures (SOP) to house Covid-19 patients.

Other lawmakers also urged Penang to develop its own measures to curb Covid-19 spread instead of depending on the Federal Government.

Chris Lee (PH-Pulau Tikus) urged Dr Norlela to drive the state with its own initiatives.

“I hope the state will take steps and start some of its own initiatives. Don’t just follow the Federal Government blindly,” he said.

Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng (PH-Air Putih) said the state’s attempts to mitigate, such as providing RM177mil in aid, were merely insufficient, describing it as ‘a drop in the ocean’ as the pandemic was affecting all layers of people.

Lim said more efforts were needed and hoped focus is given to Covid-19 and the economic recession that has lasted since March last year.

“Recently, we are not only seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases but also in number of deaths.

“The number of infections in Penang is at almost 90,000.

“Data shows that so far this year up to Aug 11, a total of 258 deaths by Covid-19 have been confirmed by the Health Ministry.

“This year up to Aug 26, there have been 469 deaths, in comparison to only nine deaths last year within the same period.

“It means within 15 days from Aug 11 to Aug 26, there have been 211 deaths.

“The Health Ministry and the government need to take full responsibility for this.”

Referring to statistics, Lim said this year up to Aug 21, a total of 21 deaths from Covid-19 had been recorded in Ayer Itam followed by 14 in Penaga and 13 in Jawi.

Among his proposals was to prioritise vaccination for those aged above 50 years old as well as traders and hawkers.

“From the 258 deaths recorded, 83% of them are over 50 years old, with 44 of them aged below 50 and 214 of them are above 50 years old.

“I suggest we give priority to those above 50 for vaccination,” he said.

Lim also urged the state to approve vaccination centres by non-government organisations such as Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia and seek the Federal Government’s help to provide necessary vaccine supply to them.

The meeting adjourned sine die.

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