PETALING JAYA: Government hospitals are running out of beds at intensive care units (ICU) to treat Covid-19 patients due to the high number of people falling critically ill because of the disease, says Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
The Health director-general said ICU occupancy rate at hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Sarawak, Kedah and Perak was over 80%.
He said some hospitals even used up all the ICU beds designated to treat Covid-19 patients.
Dr Noor Hisham said while hospitals could turn normal wards into ICU complete with the necessary equipment, it would be a struggle to constantly keep up if critical Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
“The country is currently facing an uptick in category four and five cases which require oxygen and ventilators and those in the vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with comorbidities, ” he said on Facebook.
He said hospitals allocated a certain number of ICU beds to treat Covid-19 patients and the number varies nationwide depending on the cases.
He also said hospitals were ready to repurpose other areas into ICUs as part of their preparedness to cope with a surge.
Currently, Dr Noor Hisham said there were 1,388 ICU beds in 78 government and teaching hospitals nationwide, out of which 850 or 61% were set aside to treat Covid-19 patients.
There were 41,889 active cases in the country with 520 cases being treated in ICUs and 272 of them needing respiratory support yesterday.
In JOHOR BARU, a medical source said ICU beds in two government hospitals in the state were full.
“Most of the ICU beds at HSA (Hospital Sultanah Aminah) are occupied by Covid-19 patients.
“We are planning to turn cardiac care units (CCU), which are supposed to be for critical cardiac patients, into ICU to cope with the high number of patients.
“The same situation is also happening at HSI (Hospital Sultan Ismail).
“There are plans to convert recovery area of operating theatres (OTs) into ICU as well, ” he said, adding that all elective operations had been put on hold.
A consultant anesthesiologist in a private hospital here, who declined to be named, said the Covid-19 situation had not contributed to major cancellation of selective surgeries at his hospital.
“The caseload for our OTs dropped by 20% to 30% during the beginning of the pandemic around March and April last year but it later picked up again.
“Every time there is a new wave, our OT load will see a slight drop.
“However, elective surgeries are generally not cancelled unless there is a shortage of blood for major surgeries.
“Blood supply is scarce during this period as donation drives are not being held as regularly as before, ” he said.
He added that surgeries would also be postponed if a Covid-19 case was to be detected among surgical patients.
The hospital also treats category 4 and 5 Covid-19 patients but in smaller numbers, he said.