Noor Hisham: Health frontliners are burning out

Overworked: Frontliners taking a breather while carrying out Covid-19 drive-through testing at Terminal Sentral Kuantan, Pahang. Daily case figures are not only not showing any signs of slowing down, but in fact have gone up, says Dr Noor Hisham. — Bernama

PUTRAJAYA: Health frontliners in Malaysia are suffering from burnout as they deal with a seemingly unabating number of Covid-19 cases that requires hospitalisation and intensive care, says Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“The ministry is deeply concerned that there has not been much improvement in the occupancy for intensive care unit (ICU) beds since June,” he said.

Yesterday, the number of patients in ICU was 948, with 441 on ventilator support.

“It is worrying that the admission rate of ICU patients is still at a high level. There has not been a significant reduction from the 23rd epidemiology week (June 6 to 12) until today (yesterday), where ICU bed usage remained above 90%.

“At the same time, frontline medical and health workers are suffering from burnout as they continuously deal with so many Covid-19 cases,” Dr Noor Hisham said in his daily Covid-19 statement yesterday.

He also revealed that hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Labuan were operating at “overcapacity”.

“Daily case figures are not only not showing any signs of slowing down, but in fact have gone up by an average of 2.6% for the last seven days.

“If this situation continues, the health system in those states will be crippled, and the same situation may happen in the rest of the country,” he said in what appeared to be the strongest warning to the country to date.

According to the ministry’s latest seven-day Covid-19 statistics, Negri Sembilan has the highest ICU utilisation rate, at an average of 166%.

Dr Noor Hisham said among the measures taken to address the situation included converting hospitals such as Hospital Ampang and Hospital Sungai Buloh into fully Covid-19 hospitals.

The ministry has also boosted the bed capacity at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Selayang and Hospital Tuanku Ampuan Rahimah Klang to turn them into treatment centres for Category 4 and 5 (the most severe) patients, while non-Covid-19 patients are transferred to private hospitals to manage capacity.

For states that have moved to Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan, Dr Noor Hisham called on them to continue adhering to Covid-19 standard operating procedure.

“Comply with the ministry’s SOP to ensure these states can move into subsequent phases, and to speed up the recovery process of the health, economic and social sectors,” he said.

Yesterday, Malaysia recorded 7,097 new Covid-19 cases and 4,863 recoveries.

Another 91 people died of the disease, taking the country’s death toll to 5,768, while the number of active cases climbed to 74,344.

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