Seeing red at green zone

Unable to cope: The green zone at HTAR’s Emergency Department was closed due to shortage of staff. — KK SHAM/ The Star

PETALING JAYA: For the second time this week, the Emergency Department at the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Klang (HTAR) was closed to non-critical patients.

The closure of the department’s green zone, which started early yesterday morning and extended for a period of about seven hours, was due to a shortage of staff and a high patient load.

A notice was placed at the entrance of the department to inform the public and redirect them to other health facilities.

“The Emergency Department is dealing with an overwhelming patient load at the moment, and they need to be given close attention.

“For this period, we need to prioritise critical and terminal cases. For non-emergency cases, patients are encouraged to go to nearby health facilities to receive treatment,” it said.

Sources from HTAR said the head of the department decided to put up the notice after doctors had to review patients until the wee hours of yesterday morning.

“The patient load was heavy, and the green zone was piling up with non-critical cases.

“We are lacking manpower, with only 50 medical officers (MOs) and less than 10 housemen working there.

“In addition, MOs are required to do a passive call system after their shift. If the hospital needs manpower, the MO on standby for the day is required to work another minimum of four hours before going back,” a source told The Star.

The source said hospitals would not reject critical or urgent cases, but non-urgent cases are considered “risks of misuse”.

It is also learnt that a new shift system will be imposed starting next week to accommodate the high patient load, where off days and night offs are subjected to the number of days a medical staff member works on a night shift.

Pregnant medical staff who are above 34 weeks, although exempt from the night shift, are required to extend their working hours to 4pm, instead of 3.15pm, should they be given two days off per week.

HTAR is one of the many government hospitals facing overcrowding issues.

There have been grouses on social media about long waiting times and poor services at Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Hospital Pasir Mas, with one social media user claiming that a loved one had died due to the situation.

A government doctor working in Sabah, who only wanted to be known as Farhin, said the root cause of the problem affecting government hospitals is a manpower shortage. He said the issue needed to be addressed.

“In our hospital, there are only 21 MOs, and with it being upgraded to a specialist hospital this year, MOs had to be transferred to these specialised departments, leaving us with only 15 MOs now.

“Everyone is burned out, and some MOs quit after one or two months because they cannot stand the pressure.

“If the situation persists, many more medical staff will quit and the healthcare system will be affected,” Farhin said.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said in a statement on Wednesday that the ministry would meet with the Finance Ministry to discuss increased funding to improve services.

Dr Zaliha said the meeting would also highlight the need for bigger allocations encompassing aspects of infrastructure, digitising existing systems, and human resources.

“Engagements with all stakeholders will also continue to get feedback, especially from on-ground staff.

“The engagement also aims to identify long- and short-term solutions that should be prioritised in the current healthcare system,” she said.

She added that the ministry was also in the midst of deriving processes to resolve issues such as worker welfare, the physical and mental well-being of healthcare workers, and fitting wages, among others.

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