Special allowance proposed for healththcare workers battling SARS


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 06 May 2003

BY LEONG SHEN-LI

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is preparing a proposal for healthcare workers involved in the fight against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome to be paid a special allowance. 

Its minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the proposal, which would be presented to the Cabinet next week, would also include paying an allowance to certain people who had to undergo quarantine as they could have suffered loss of income. 

“We will put this in our recommendation as a small token of appreciation,” he told a press conference after briefing Chinese community leaders on SARS at the Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday. 

He said hospital staff dealing with SARS patients were at the highest risk of catching the disease. 

“We have seen from Singapore’s experience that 85% to 90% of all infections occurred in the hospital and a large majority of those who caught the disease was hospital staff,” he added. 

He said this situation had resulted in healthcare workers being discriminated against because the public was afraid that they would be infected. 

“Do you know that some of them do not go home and stay at hospital quarters because they are afraid that they would infect their family and loved ones?” he added. 

He said during the Nipah virus outbreak in  

1999, healthcare workers were also paid a special allowance. 

As for people who had to be quarantined, Chua said those who suffered the most were those who were not paid a salary. 

“This would include people who were self-employed, as well as those like lorry drivers who were paid on a per trip basis. There are also daily waged people who don’t get paid if they don’t work,” he said. 

When asked about the quantum to be paid, he said it would be left to “the wisdom of the Cabinet” to decide whether to accept the sum in the proposal. 

Chua also urged the Chinese community here to return to living their lives normally because “Malaysia never saw the worst of the disease” and that SARS was never transmitted locally. At the global level, he said the World Health Organisation had also declared that the worst was already over except in China. 

He said the Chinese community, as well as the other communities to a lesser extent, had been affected by uncertainties, fear and panic because of various factors, such as their frequent travels to affected areas like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. 

He said a lot of false information had been disseminated. 

As such, briefings given to the various Chinese community leaders on the situation as well as what the Government was doing was important to allay people’s fears, said Chua. 

Earlier, seven Chinese federations, organisations and associations presented Chua with a memorandum, entitled “Unit- ing to overcome SARS”, where they agreed to work with the the Government to fight the disease. 

They agreed to co-operate fully with the authorities and expressed their appreciation for the good work of healthcare workers. 

The memorandum also urged the Government to look into problems suffered by businesses, and called for the setting up of a SARS fund for patients and their families, healthcare workers as well as those quarantined.  

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