PETALING JAYA: Stating that ICU beds are full does not mean that Covid-19 patients who are in need of intensive care will be turned away, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba (pic).
In providing an assurance as many hospitals are brimming with patients, he said it simply means the capacity of certain ICU wards have been maximised at a given point.
“The Health Ministry will not turn away anyone needing treatment or needing intensive care.
“We are committed to providing the necessary treatment to all citizens.
“When a state health director states that ICU beds are full, this means we are referring to the current capacity of the ICU wards.
“The hospitals will then be directed to repurpose other wards and transform them into ICU wards, ” he said when contacted yesterday, where he added that the ministry will also get medical experts to manage the units.
Dr Adham said the ministry is able to mobilise such experts at short notice from its existing workforce, in addition to those from its training centres nationwide, and asked the people not to panic.
“If need be, non-Covid-19 patients in ICUs which are at full capacity will be moved to private hospitals to make space for Covid-19 ICU patients, ” he said.
The minister added that the government has reached an agreement with private hospitals on the ceiling price that private hospitals can charge if they are asked to take in non-Covid-19 ICU patients.
“We will also assist the private hospitals with the needed facilities to handle those non-Covid-19 patients in need of intensive care, ” said Dr Adham.
On May 9, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that most hospitals in the Klang Valley have used up their ICU beds to treat Covid-19 cases.
On May 16, Sarawak Health director Dr Chin Zin Hing warned that the ICU bed capacity in Sarawak’s public hospitals has reached a critical stage.
Dr Chin said the situation is bad, especially at the Sibu and Kapit hospitals, where the more seriously ill Covid-19 patients are being admitted.
Meanwhile, the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh confirmed that ICU beds in 31 private hospitals in Klang Valley are full.
“At the moment, any empty beds are quickly taken up once freed, ” he said when contacted.
He said it has reached a stage where private hospitals here would call each other up to see if there are ICU beds available.
“It is not whether you have the money to get treated at private hospitals, it is about whether the hospital has an ICU bed available, ” he said as he tried to counter criticism that private hospitals here are not doing enough to set up ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
He noted that ICU beds for Covid-19 can only be set up at specially designated areas in a hospital to avoid cross-infections.
“You also need specialist doctors and trained personnel to monitor the patients round the clock, which private hospitals lack, ” said Dr Kuljit, who added that low-risk quarantine centres are the best option for Covid-19 treatment if private hospitals are full.
“Government centres may not be as comfortable, or may be crowded, but the personnel there are well trained and have vast experience in managing Covid-19, as seen from the high recovery rate, ” he added.
At the moment, he said Category 1 and 2 Covid-19 patients (those with mild to moderate symptoms) can opt to seek treatment at private or government hospitals, where they will be advised to self-quarantine while reporting their condition daily.
He added that those under Category 3 (with breathing difficulties) must get treatment at a hospital, whether private or public.
“Don’t just sit at home and do nothing as the chances of survival drops if the infected person has comorbidities, ” said Dr Kuljit, who also gave the assurance that even if there are no ICU beds at private hospitals, Covid-19 patients will first be stabilised before being referred to public facilities with Covid-19 ICU beds.