Covid-19: ‘Battle against raging pandemic felt like a different lifetime’

Stronger together: Frontline healthcare workers who served together during the pandemic were bound by a sense of camaraderie and patriotism, said Dr Thum.

PETALING JAYA: It may have been four years since Covid-19 hit Malaysian shores. Yet, memories of toiling in hospitals and saving lives are still fresh in the minds of medical frontliners.

Dr Sean Thum said he was called to serve five days before the movement control order (MCO) was enforced on March 18, 2020.

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“I felt a strong sense of duty when I was called to serve. I received training for this in medical school.“There was no hesitation because I knew I was doing my part to serve the people.

Of course I was worried about how things would turn out. But carrying out my duty was at the forefront of my mind,” he said.

Dr Thum, who experienced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) while serving in Johor and Sabah, said doctors had to resort to do-it-yourself PPE.

“In the early days of the MCO, there was a shortage of PPE, which led us to be innovative and creatively use everything we had.

“Fortunately, our do-it-yourself PPE was a short-term measure that helped tide us over until stocks were available.

“This episode showed our determination to carry out our duty of treating patients even without adequate resources,” he said.

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Dr Thum said he felt anxious due to the uncertainty while serving on the frontlines.

“The whole country was in a state of stress, unsure of what the future held.

“All of us who served together were bound by a sense of camaraderie and patriotism because we knew that we were serving the people in our respective facilities.

“Now that things are better controlled, I can look back at that time with less stress. But certainly at that point, it was really hard,” he said.

Now, four years later, Dr Thum said Malaysia is doing its best to move forward, with greater emphasis being placed on public health.

“The Health Ministry has been receiving record-high allocations. People have more awareness of public health measures.

“Many people are choosing to wear masks when in public, despite it not being mandatory.

“However, some things can still be improved. For example, better welfare for healthcare workers is needed in order to retain these talents in Malaysia,” he said.

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Dr Amy (not her real name), who served at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang Quarantine and Treatment Centre, said when recounting her experience serving there that it was no less than a war zone.

“Oxygen tanks were running out and patients were increasing. We would be sweating beneath the layers of the PPE.

“The queue to transfer patients was getting longer while their condition deteriorated.

“We were also sending out calls for help to the government, as we were running out of resources, manpower and strength.

“Looking back, it feels like the whole pandemic was a different lifetime,” she said.

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Dr Amy said she is grateful that the challenging times are in the past and life is back to normal.

“The only things that kept us going were love for our country and the call of duty to serve our beloved Malaysia.”

“I hope we rectify the issues related to our healthcare system and not wait for another pandemic to test its strength,” she added.

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Covid-19 , Pandemic


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