From volunteer firefighters to frontline nurses, they are getting the job done


Keeping the town safe: Chan, with his Sri Tanjung vehicle at the voluntary squad station in Weld Quay, Penang, says the job has been exhausting especially in the last year. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Having to juggle between operating a coffee shop and being a volunteer firefighter in the past year has been exhausting but meaningful for Chan Kim Keat.

The 47-year-old Sri Tanjung Voluntary Fire and Rescue squad captain has helped put out 29 fires and sanitised at least 25 places in the last 12 months in the midst of the pandemic.

“I remember having to sanitise four different places in a day. It was so tiring.

“We have to put on full personal protective equipment (PPE) and were drenched in sweat while carrying out sanitisation work.

“It takes between two to three hours to sanitise a location depending on its size, ” he said.

“I can still recall spending more than three and a half hours sanitising a school before it reopened.”

Chan said his team, which consists of around 55 volunteers, also managed to put out fires and saved the lives of two senior citizens and a youth.

He added that he had to sanitise and take a shower at the voluntary squad station in Weld Quay before heading home.

“I have three daughters aged between 11 and 19.

“I have registered for the Covid-19 vaccination but since we are a voluntary squad, we are not considered frontliners.

“I hope that the government will give us the priority to be vaccinated earlier as we are exposed to high risk every day, ” he said.

Senior nurse S. Jenny, 55, who works at the maternity ward, said things were slowly improving.

“People are calmer as compared to last year. When the MCO was first implemented, the hospital was so quiet. People were scared to come.

“We always assure patients that as long as they follow the SOP, they will be fine, ” she said.

Jenny, who has been a nurse for 36 years, said they needed to carry out a Covid-19 test before a mother delivers to ensure that the baby and mother were safe and healthy.

“If the husband wants to be in the delivery room, he too has to be tested.

“As for us, we have to put on full PPE and goggles during delivery and when carrying the baby.

“Our workload has increased as there are extra precautionary steps and we have to be extra careful, ” Jenny said.

For pharmacist Lee Chee Cing, 27, the past year has been tiring but memorable.

“A new dispensary system was developed to minimise the patients’ risk of being exposed to Covid-19.

“The Pharmacy Department introduced some new services to the public such as drive-through pharmacies and medication by post, among others, as this can greatly reduce the crowd at the outpatient setting.

“Everyone was working really hard during the pandemic and holidays were cancelled as we needed to be on standby in case any staff member got infected and we need to cover them.

“Most of us are worried about getting infected while at work.

“Some of my colleagues even moved out from their homes to avoid close contact with their loved ones.

“We encourage patients to always alert us if they show any signs and symptoms, ” she said, adding that she had already been vaccinated.

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