'Give clear guidelines on virus'


  • Nation
  • Friday, 04 Apr 2003

Reports by V.P. SUJATA, ZUHRIN AZAM AHMAD, JACK WONG, SUSAN TAM, AUDREY EDWARDS, CHOW HOW BAN, FARRIS BAHAROM AND NEOH SUAT PHENG

PETALING JAYA: The National Committee on SARS, meeting for the first time today, must address the key issue of providing correct information on its treatment and prevention to private doctors and hospitals, a panel member said.  

Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Ridzwan Bakar said this term of reference was important as private primary healthcare providers, such as general practitioners, were still unclear on how to deal with the killer virus. 

“They are getting worried. We have to make it very clear that a large number of our population go to general practitioners and not the outpatient departments (of hospitals) for check-ups,” he said when contacted yesterday. 

The committee members include APHM, the Education, Information and Transport Ministries, Malaysian Medical Association and Private Practitioners Association. 

Dr Ridzwan said healthcare providers needed to be given clear standard operating procedures in order to handle cases correctly. 

He added that the Government had made the right move in setting up “specialised” public hospitals where effective treatment could be done “under one roof.” 

This, he said, would allow APHM member hospitals to refer their cases there. 

“It is not saying that private hospitals are incompetent to handle SARS cases. But it is a much better idea to confine any case to one or two hospitals to avoid the spread,” he added. 

Dr Ridzwan also said that it was crucial to ensure that the guidelines for the disease were streamlined. 

“It is also important to synchronise as the private sector may have different inputs. An example is what we are to do if the patient insists on being treated at a private hospital and does not want to go to a public one. 

“So, we (the private sector) have to make a standard input on the disease,” he added. 

Meanwhile, specimens which are taken from suspected SARS cases are grown in tissue culture and monitored for up to two weeks to detect the presence of coronavirus, said a microbiologist.  

“We monitor it every day looking for the coronavirus. Testing started last week. Two weeks is a reasonable time to check whether the virus is present using an electron microscope,” he said. 

Testing for SARS specimens is being carried out at the Institute of Medical Research. 

An international multi-centre research project under the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently narrowed down possible causative agents to coronavirus and paramyxovirus. 

The United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta also reported that tests had revealed traces of the coronavirus in tissues of those infected with SARS. 

It has been reported that the coronavirus, a strain of the common cold virus, is responsible for 10% to 20% of common colds and respiratory illnesses.  

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