Refusing to be quarantined, demanding unnecessary screenings, lying about their travel history, and concealing the fact that they have had contact with a positive patient – these are just some of the issues medical personnel are facing.
With Covid-19 cases on the rise, frontliners speaking to The Star’s R.AGE team said the long hours and extreme working conditions are beginning to take a toll.
“One person walked past a group of Chinese tourists, no talking or touching, and he immediately asked for a Covid test, ” said a physician in Sungai Buloh, who only wished to be known as Dr Faris.
“We said no, and he started to scream and shout, saying ‘How can you be sure I don’t have it’?”
Another doctor based in the Klang Valley said some patients refused to wait at a designated space for screening, despite showing symptoms.
“They refused to be quarantined because they have other things to do, while some are scared of the backlash they might get because they traveled overseas, ” she said.
While some patients have tried to avoid screening, others have lied so they could be tested.
“The test is not cheap, so we will only do it for certain cases. But some lied to us telling us that they lived with someone who went to the tabligh event and has symptoms!
“So the problem now is that we are facing Malaysians who are very stubborn, ” she added.
To make things worse, she said many Malaysians who were instructed to self-quarantine failed to do so.
For example, a patient who was asked to self-quarantine after attending the tabligh gathering at Masjid Jamek, Sri Petaling, defied doctor’s orders and attended two weddings before finally testing positive.
“We don’t have enforcers to monitor them at home because we have to attend to the situation at clinics and hospitals.
“Some countries monitor their patients using mobile apps, but we don’t have that, so the virus continues to spread across the whole country like wildfire, ” she said.
The continued public gatherings and outings in Malaysia, despite over 900 recorded cases at press time, has also baffled Dr Faris.
As someone who has been practising social distancing even from his own family members, Dr Faris said the public should take lessons from the tabligh gathering, which led to a dramatic spread of the disease.
“That is our downfall. I still can’t believe we hosted a gathering for 14,000 people! Thanks to that, we are a major disease exporter, ” he said.
Medical frontliners also spoke to R.AGE about the strain the entire system is currently under.
A doctor based in the south of Peninsula Malaysia, who only wished to be known as Dr Yasmin, said some health facilities had no choice but to freeze staff leave and extend working hours.
“We had no choice. We needed people to help do screening, sampling and send samples and Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) to the designated hospitals.
“We are talking about humans, and after working so many hours for so many days and under such tremendous pressure, our staff members are starting to fall sick, ” she said, adding that they had identified five to 10 PUI on a daily basis.
For some, clocking out from the clinics does not mean they can go home and rest.
“After finishing work at 5pm, we have to rush to the border to help screen travellers who are coming into Malaysia. Others have to help out at hospitals that are short-handed, ” she said, adding that she hoped the movement control order would help to ease their burden.
Like the other doctors, Dr Yasmin and her colleagues have also faced uncooperative patients, some of whom have put medical personnel at risk.
According to Dr Yasmin, one patient did not disclose that he had attended the tabligh gathering, so his doctor examined him as a normal case.
“The next day, the patient went to a different clinic and tested positive for Covid-19. Now my doctor, who is pregnant with her first child after years of trying to conceive, is developing the symptoms, “ she said.
Despite feeling compelled to serve the country, Dr Yasmin fears frontliners might not be able to bear the burden much longer.
“We tend to get sick because we have less rest, we’re seeing so many patients, and wearing the personal protection suit which is very hot and uncomfortable.” she added.
Asked to comment on the exhaustion that medical professionals are experiencing, Health Minister Datuk Dr Adham Baba said he hoped the public and frontliners understand that the government’s actions had all been taken to curb the spread of the virus.
“As a minister, I can’t comment on unverified sources, but staff can talk to their hospital director about any issues.
“I have said this a few times including when I visited KLIA, Hospital Permai in Johor Bahru, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Putrajaya, and health clinics – we need to stop the spread of the disease.
“That is our ultimate goal and we can’t predict what will happen if we fail to do so.
“We know we have staff who are tired after working for 24 hours. That is why the Agong visited our National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) on Thursday (March 19) to monitor the situation, so it goes to that level.
“I just hope the people and frontliners know this is something we have to do.”