Crisis at hospital emergency units


Bursting at the seams: The Emergency Department at most public hospitals are packed and there are hardly any beds available. — SHAARI CHEMAT/The Star

PETALING JAYA: It’s like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie: patients holding on to their own IV bags, in pain from their illness or wounds, some standing while others sit on the hard hospital floor.

They’re all waiting long hours to be treated or to be admitted into a government hospital ward.

Some have allegedly been turned away from inpatient treatment due to a lack of beds.

These are among the claims shared by the public on social media as people experienced overcrowding in government hospitals when seeking treatment, as public healthcare facilities are stretched to bursting point with a high number of patient arrivals.

ALSO READ: Groups: GPs can help ease emergency dept case load

On Jan 18, the Twitter account of the group championing rights for contract doctors, @HKontrak (HartalDoktorKontrak), shared a picture of fully occupied beds and a packed emergency department at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL).

“Received this picture from someone who went to the HKL emergency department. I believe this happened somewhere else as well.

“Patients coming in nonstop. Overcrowded. Doctors? Obviously not enough. We are still waiting for action from @Zaliha_DrZ @KKMPutrajaya,” the caption read, referring to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s social media handle.

The post claimed that there a was more than 24-hour wait to be admitted into a ward, with almost 100 patients stranded in the emergency department during peak hours.

ALSO READ: Ministry: We will seek comprehensive solutions to tackle the problems

“Are we going to do something or just leave it to collapse?” the tweet said.

Another Twitter user, @hippochan94, said she saw a similar occurrence at another government hospital in the Klang Valley.

“Just yesterday I had a patient with acute appendicitis sitting on the floor with a bottle of drip in his hands, and a three-year-old kid with dengue who had to stand with the drip in her father’s hands. It is that bad. Medical officer to patient ratio 1:30,” she tweeted on Jan 18.

ALSO READ: Hospital emergency depts need sustainable system to ease congestion, ministry told

Azimah Abdullah Zawawi, in a Facebook post on Jan 17, said she was disappointed by the poor treatment of her son at Hospital Pasir Mas in Kelantan after he was involved in an accident.

She claimed that her son was not given proper treatment and the family told to take him home with only an outpatient follow-up scheduled for the next day, despite his poor condition.

She said the doctor refused to give inpatient treatment as the hospital was packed and didn’t have any beds available.

“An hour after I received a call that my son was involved in an accident, I arrived at the hospital and saw my son sitting in a wheelchair, with his face bleeding, vomit [on his front] and looking frail, with his clothes covered in blood.

“During treatment [to stitch her son’s mouth injuries], my son was left alone without supervision and with his mouth open for about 30 to 40 minutes,” she said.

ALSO READ: Health clinics operating beyond office hours to reduce hospital congestion

She said she later took her son to be treated at another hospital after failing to persuade the attending doctor to admit him.

At the second hospital, her son’s stitches were redone and a wound on the stomach, which was overlooked at the previous hospital, was cleaned. She said she will submit a formal complaint to the Health Ministry via the Public Complaints Management System.

Public healthcare expert Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, who went for a follow-up medical examination at a government specialist clinic last month, said it took him more than three hours to finish the examination, after taking a number to queue for his turn at 9am.

“Everything finished at 12.30pm. Many people were queueing up and many were also standing because there were not enough seats.

“The specialist room was also shared with medical officers. It was crowded too,” he said in a Facebook post on Dec 22 last year.

He said some examinations not available at the hospital were outsourced to a private facility at an estimated cost of RM120.

“The staff was not sure whether the cost of outsourced service is paid by the hospital or not,” he said.

Dr Zainal said he hopes the government will transform the national healthcare service system by taking into account all aspects, including services, resources, environment and financing.

On Jan 14, Yong Peng assemblyman Ling Tian Soon said Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Baru is among government hospitals facing constant overcrowding.

“The hospital is full of patients even early in the morning as patients come with their families to get treatment.

“With the assistance provided by the Johor state government in placing additional chairs, it has provided comfort for patients and families as they wait for their turn,” he said.

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