Private hospitals ready for patients


Getting ready: A man setting up one of 1,400 beds in Hall D1 for Covid-19 patients at MAEPS in Serdang, Selangor. — AZLINA ABDULLAH/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Private hospitals have treated Covid-19 patients before, but the practice was to send them to government hospitals once beds became available there, says the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh.

As such, private hospitals were ready and ironing out details with the government to determine how many patients a private hospital could take and which would be able to treat the disease up to Category 5, he said.

Category 1 are positive cases with no symptoms, Category 2 are positive cases with mild symptoms, Category 3 are positive cases with pneumonia, Category 4 are those with inflammation in the lungs and require oxygen, and Category 5 are those admitted to hospital in the late stages and require ventilator support.

“It’s not as if we have not been treating these patients. We have, but we sent them to government hospitals when beds became available there, ” he said.

“We made sure that maximum care was provided for the patients. We never neglected their care.

“The patients did not know they had Covid-19 when they came to the hospital and were only diagnosed after being tested for it, ” he added.

Dr Kuljit said this had been going on for the past one to two months due to the lack of beds in the government hospitals.

On the ongoing discussions with the government for private hospitals to start managing and treating some Covid-19 cases, Dr Kuljit said this would require private hospitals to care for the patients to the very end of their treatment instead of sending them off mid-way to government hospitals.

“We want to make sure that when we start treating Covid-19 patients, we do it correctly, safely and according to all the standard operating procedure set by the Health Ministry, ” he said when contacted yesterday.

Dr Kuljit said the Health Ministry had conducted webinar sessions over the past two days with private doctors on managing adult, paediatric and pregnant Covid-19 patients.

“These sessions are on what the protocols are and the treatment options, ” he said.

He pointed out that a lot of planning needed to be done to ensure that private hospitals were equipped to treat the patients, as they were actually not designed or structured to treat these patients in the same way as government hospitals.

Dr Kuljit said among the constraints faced by private hospitals include, limited intensive care unit (ICU) beds, manpower and situations where specialists had to work on their own without medical officers or house officers to assist them.

“Private hospital owners are looking for hospitals that can fulfil all these criteria. At the end of the day, we want to be successful. We don’t want to take in patients and then find out we are not ready in managing them correctly, ” he said.

Dr Kuljit added that they would be able to start accepting Covid-19 patients “as soon as possible” after all the details had been addressed.

He also stressed that private hospitals would continue to treat patients with other illnesses after they accept Covid-19 patients.

“We will adhere to the strict guidelines when treating these patients, ” he assured.

A group of doctors from the Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice Malaysia, however, said the private healthcare sector had severe limitations in treating Covid-19 cases.

They pointed out that most private hospitals were small, with the bigger ones only having 200 to 300 beds and limited ICU capacity, and a few dozen specialists.

“In private hospitals, there are also no trainee doctors, no medical officers and no registrars to assist the anaesthetist or intensivist, ” they said, adding that their specialists were mostly people above 60 years of age and were thus in the high-risk group for contracting Covid-19.

Separately, Malaysian Association of Hotels chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng believed that hotels would be willing to open up their premises to quarantine patients under surveillance as long as the requirements were met.

If hotels were directed to do so, they would be compensated fairly, he said.

“At the moment, there are already many hotels that have voluntarily been listed as quarantine centres with the key implementation requirement being closure for public or any other business and added controls as well as support from the National Disaster Management Agency, Civil Defence Force and the Health Ministry.

“These agencies will determine if the hotel is suitable in terms of layout, access or exit points and room features, ” he said, adding that the same requirements must be met if hotels were conscripted under the Emergency Ordinance.

Yap said the key challenges for them would be managing those quarantined at the hotels in cases which would require intervention from the authorities.

“On the human resources side, there will also be a certain amount of concern over the welfare of the employees involved, ” he said.

“The government will also have to ensure total sanitisation and disinfection of the entire property after the quarantine programme.”

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