PETALING JAYA: Government hospitals are running out of beds at intensive care units (ICU) to treat Covid-19 patients as the number of people falling critically ill because of the virus escalates, says Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
The Health director-general said ICU occupancy rates at hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Sarawak, Kedah and Perak are over 80% and some hospitals have even used up all the ICU beds designated to treat Covid-19 patients.
Dr Noor Hisham said while hospitals can turn normal wards into ICUs complete with the necessary equipment, it will be a struggle to constantly keep up if critical Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
“The country is currently facing an uptick in category 4 and 5 cases which require oxygen and ventilators and those in the vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with comorbidities are typically affected, ” he said in a Facebook post on Saturday (May 15).
He explained that hospitals allocate a certain number of beds in their ICUs for Covid-19 patients and other critically ill patients and this number can vary depending on the number of cases needing treatment.
“When there is a drop in critical Covid-19 cases, the state health departments may also reduce the number of ICU beds to treat Covid-19 patients. If there is an increase in critical cases, the quantum will also be increased, ” he said.
He said hospitals are ready to repurpose other areas into ICU units as part of their preparedness strategy to cope with the surge in cases.
Currently, Dr Noor Hisham said, there are a total of 1,388 ICU beds in 78 government and teaching hospitals nationwide, out of which 850 or about 61% have been set aside to treat Covid-19 patients.
The rest are for patients with other critical ailments.
As of Saturday, the Health Ministry reported 42,135 active cases with 482 patients being treated at ICUs and 250 needing respiratory assistance.