‘Don’t turn away suspected cases’


  • Nation
  • Friday, 18 Apr 2003

BY SIRA HABIBU AND TUNKU SHAHARIAH

PENANG: Private practitioners have been cautioned not to turn away patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-like symptoms to avert local transmission of the disease. 

Health director Dr Azmi Shafie said that sending away patients was irresponsible as it would only increase risk of local transmission if the patients were to be SARS positive. 

“It has come to our attention that two or three doctors on the island have refused to treat patients who had displayed SARS-like symptoms,'' he said at the SARS Forum organised by the Penang Medical Practitioners Society at the Caring Society Complex last night. 

Dr Azmi said that to minimise risk of local transmission, general practitioners must examine and diagnose the patient accordingly and have the suspected cases referred to the Penang Hospital immediately. 

“If the patients are diagnosed as suspected SARS, the doctors can call the hospital and request for our dedicated ambulance service to transport the patient to Penang Hospital,'' he said. 

The Star executive editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai, who was one of the speakers at the forum, said politicians should not try to suppress information about SARS at the local level, adding that foreign media reporters based in Kuala Lumpur will “get the story out any way.'' 

He also assured the public that there was no conspiracy to cover up SARS cases in Malaysia, adding: “We have resisted pressures to suppress SARS stories.'' 

“SARS is a serious public health issue and there should not be any cover up. I do not agree with state executive councillor Datuk Kee (Phaik Cheen) who asked that SARS not be highlighted as it would affect tourist arrivals,'' he said, adding that information should not be suppressed for selfish reasons. 

Wong lauded acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for directing the Health Ministry to be transparent in handling SARS issues.  

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