M’sian-born doctor hailed for stopping Adelaide outbreak


ADELAIDE: A Malaysian-born doctor is being praised as a “heroine” in Australia for preventing a full-blown coronavirus outbreak in Adelaide.

South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has commended Dr Dharminy Thurairatnam (pic), who hails from Klang, for picking up on coronavirus symptoms in an elderly woman.

She said the state could have been dealing with “widespread community transmission” if not for the junior doctor.

“She heard this person cough a couple of times and thought, ‘They’re not getting away without having a swab’, and went ahead and swabbed the person.

“If we hadn’t done that, we’d have found out about this in two or three weeks and we would have had widespread community transmission by now, ” said Dr Spurrier.

Dr Dharminy is now in a medi-hotel as she is a close contact of a coronavirus patient.

The doctor had picked up on the slight cough of a woman in her

80s when she turned up at Lyell McEwin Hospital in Adelaide’s northern suburbs on Nov 20.

The woman had Covid-19 and it was later found that the disease had spread to 25 of her family members and their close contacts.

Both the woman and her husband, also in his 80s, had caught the disease from their daughter, the cluster’s source who works as a cleaner at the cluster epicentre, Peppers Waymouth Hotel.

Dr Dharminy, who moved to Adelaide last year, said she was honoured to receive widespread praise for doing her job.

The Sunday Mail in Adelaide had published a two-page news report on her with the headline “Humble doctor busted cluster” while ABC News’ headline was “South Australia’s coronavirus cluster detected by junior doctor who heard a cough in hospital emergency department”.

“I am only one doctor in the emergency department who tries to do my very best with every patient that I treat, ” said Dr Dharminy at The Playford Adelaide medi-hotel, where she is being quarantined with 90 other staff members and patients.

“As for the hero part, I think every front line worker is a hero during the pandemic.”

Despite feeling unwell with a sore throat and runny nose, Dr Dharminy – who has not seen her husband, who works in a hospital in Singapore, and her two sons since March after international borders closed – had two negative tests.

Dr Dharminy, who graduated from medical school in 2006, previously worked in hospitals in Penang and Singapore.

She said the woman’s cough triggered an “alarm bell” and suspicions.

She added that had the woman not coughed, “there would have been absolutely no need to do a swab test as she didn’t have any of the typical symptoms we would look for in Covid-19 patients”.

Dr Dharminy said praise should go to the hospital’s senior consultants and staff, who were committed to teaching and patiently guided young clinicians like herself.

“They often reiterate to us to observe patients and pick up on subtle signs that patients don’t mention or may think are irrelevant.

“That was what I did the night I treated the patient. I would say it was a very real high index of clinical suspicion, ” she said.

“I was honestly just trying to do my job as best as I could.”

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