KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — Patients who need health treatment for serious illnesses must not delay this notwithstanding the advice to avoid hospitals due to possible Covid-19 risks, several doctors said.
They stressed that the recommendation was against unnecessary trips to hospitals and should not be interpreted as a suggestion to put off treatment.
“Covid-19 is going to take some time to eradicate so in the meantime all those who need critical care must continue to look after themselves. Any medical condition should not be delayed,” said Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia.
“All surgical procedures must be treated immediately and people should put the fear of catching Covid-19 aside if you are in need of critical care.”
On Tuesday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah urged Malaysians to avoid hospitals unless they absolutely need to be there.
He said with cases rising, there could be a possibility of catching Covid-19.
Dr Kuljit said this was why private hospitals have had a no-visitor policy since the pandemic began.
He also said treatment and consultations were strictly by appointment, with only emergency cases accepted without prior reservations.
“Private hospitals are very safe as they have been following strict protocols due to tight regulations from the government in terms of cleanliness, safety and overall patient care since before the pandemic hit,” added Dr Kuljit.
“They are not overly crowded — which is one of the fastest ways for the disease to spread — and there is not a long waiting period.”
Respiratory specialist Dr Helmy Haja Mydin said the advice to avoid needless visits to hospitals was also not only for Covid-19, pointing out that hospitals were by their very nature carried the risk of disease.
Advising the public not to make frivolous visits to hospitals was a common sense recommendation to mitigate the risk of infections, he said.
“It’s like an aeroplane: the risk of transmission is higher in a full plane versus one that is partially filled, even if all SOPs are adhered to,” Dr Helmy said when contacted.
He suggested that for less urgent health issues, Malaysians could look into the various hospitals and portals that offer telemedicine.
“For example, some patients need a prescription to renew their blood pressure medication but are otherwise OK, these can be provided without the need for physical presence.
“The health director-general’s message is to minimise unnecessary visits; it does not preclude obtaining the right treatment at the right time for those who need it,” he added.
Malaysia’s new daily Covid-19 has remained consistently above 3,000 in recent days, offering little reprieve to the country’s public hospitals that Dr Noor Hisham said were close to being overwhelmed.
The surge in cases has also affected more than just hospitals. Public health clinics have also been reducing the number of patients hourly to reduce crowding.
Dr Rohan S. Shanmuganathan, a physician at Klinik Kesihatan Taman Medan, agreed with the others that those with chronic illnesses must continue seeking treatment.
He assured them that the clinics are taking every precaution to ensure they limit their patients’ exposure and are informing the public of their updated health protocols through social media.
He said the feedback has been good and operations have been smooth as new protocols have been embraced.
“We have been seeing around 30-50 per cent fewer patients since the pandemic hit. Non-critical and more stable cases are cut down drastically while those who need more medication are given medication.
“All patients are also seen strictly by appointment only and they have to be present and register 30 minutes before their appointments. We’ve limited ourselves to seeing 100 patients per hour and no walk-in’s are entertained unless it’s an emergency,” Dr Rohan told Malay Mail.
“I can share with you that we have been seeing fewer requests for MC (medical certificate) since the pandemic hit.”
Health experts had predicted that hospitals would be overrun if cases spike in March this year if cases hit the 5,000 to 8,000 per day mark.
So far, the highest number of daily cases was recorded on January 16 at 4,029 cases. The total number of infections has crossed 165,000 and the death toll sits at 615 (January 20).
To that effect, Dr Arvinder Singh, a medical officer for the Institute of Clinical Research Malaysia said the public could help the Health Ministry and frontliners by using the primary care facilities for medical attention.
He said the public can access the public health clinics, government tertiary health care outlets and private hospitals.
“We have seen how during the first MCO people who defaulted on getting treatment for diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and so on developed ulcers and complications while young people were coming in with stroke symptoms.
“These are all comorbidity issues that Covid-19 attacks. So please seek treatment if you are critically ill,” said Dr Arvinder.
“The message that should be implied here is please help the medical professionals by firstly not visiting anyone and two not utilising the emergency facilities too much. Mild ailments need not be treated in a ward and it should only be for severe cases,” he added.