Don't go overboard, Ismail tells hospitals

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 18 May 2003


KUALA LUMPUR: Hospitals should not go overboard in taking precautionary measures against SARS by placing healthcare staff under quarantine without pay, Health Deputy Director-General Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said. 

“The main implication (of the quarantine) is that you will be generating a fear of reporting as healthcare staff may be afraid to report that they have been to affected countries for fear of a pay cut,” he said. 

Dr Ismail said this after receiving reports of two nurses being quarantined for 10 days without pay when they returned from New Zealand and had a one-hour transit stop in Singapore in April. 

“This shows a complete lack of understanding of the issue. The two nurses had gone to New Zealand which is not on the SARS-affected countries list and only stopped over in Singapore for an hour,” he said at the SARS daily briefing at the ministry yesterday. 

“According to the WHO guidelines, if you have been on transit in the countries, it may mean you have not visited the country. 

“The hospital could have put the two nurses under surveillance and not quarantine. What is worse is that their pay was withheld,” he said. 

The two nurses, attached to the operating theatre, were fine and did not display any SARS symptoms, he added. 

Dr Ismail said the nurses, who were from a private hospital here, had been advised to take up their case with the Human Resource Ministry and the Health Ministry would bring it up at the National Committee on SARS technical group’s meeting tomorrow. 

On the operations room, he said it would run from 8am to 6pm and the hotline would operate from 8am to 4.45pm.  

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