GEORGE TOWN, Oct 7 — It is time for Putrajaya to formulate a Malaysian Healthcare Blueprint, said DAP’s Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim.
The lawmaker, who is also the Penang state — federal coordinator for Covid-19 management, said the blueprint will prepare the healthcare system to deal with any related challenges.
He said such a blueprint can also be adapted to the Penang2030 vision to suit the local context.
“We must not waste the opportunity of this crisis to rethink and reform healthcare so that we will be more prepared to respond to the next crisis quickly and effectively,” he said, referring to the Covid-19 pandemic that the country has been dealing with since early last year.
Sim said he has pointed out that there should have been two conditions for relaxing movement restrictions at the end of the first movement control order (MCO) last year, which were low statistics and high healthcare system preparedness.
“We must have a low number of Covid-19 cases, but at the same time, high healthcare system preparedness,” he said in a statement today.
On the management of Covid-19 in Penang, Sim has proposed five measures for both the federal and state government to implement to manage Covid-19 or any pandemic in future.
One of the measures is to set up an infectious disease centre in the state.
He said the centre can tap into the healthcare ecosystem and talent pool in Penang to deal with infectious diseases like Covid-19 or vector-borne diseases like dengue which is a longstanding healthcare problem.
“Improve and upgrade local health facilities such as the district health office, district hospitals and klinik kesihatan because treatment and disease control essentially take place in these facilities instead of in Putrajaya or even Komtar,” he said.
He pointed out that facility upgrades for Hospital Sungai Bakap, Hospital Balik Pulau and Hospital Bukit Mertajam are long overdue.
The third measure is to set up a home care programme for home quarantine Covid-19 patients.
He said this can be achieved by mobilising private medical practitioners to provide medical and health monitoring services either via telemedicine, phone calls or if necessary, home visits.
“Home quarantine patients should not be left unattended because not many have the know-hows to deal with medical conditions arising from diseases such as Covid-19,” he said.
He said the provision of consistent home care can minimise brought-in-dead (BID) cases due to sudden escalation of a patient’s condition at home.
“The state health department had briefed about 100 private practitioners in the state recently and many of them had indicated interest to be part of the home care or home monitoring programme,” he said.
He said there is a need for the government to resolve the legal, logistical, and procedural obstacles in implementing this so that the network of doctors can be activated to fight against Covid-19.
Sim said Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facilities will also need to be increased.
“When the pandemic started in March 2020, Penang only had 26 ICU beds out of which six were reserved for Covid-19 patients,” he said.
In comparison, between July and September 2021, when there was a big spike in Covid-19 cases in Penang, the state has 69 ICU beds.
“Today, we have 101 ICU beds for Covid-19, which is about 5.7 beds per 100,000 population, with the national figure being 4.7, Melaka (9.4), Negeri Sembilan (7.8), Kedah (5.9), Pahang (4.8), Kelantan (4.7), Perak (4.5), Perlis (4.3), Sabah (5.8), Sarawak (5.4), Selangor (3.0), Terengganu (3.0), Johor (2.9),” he said.
He said the total deaths in the state for epidemic week 37 (September 12 to 18) dropped by 1.57 per cent before dropping 24.2 per cent in the next epidemic week and stagnated in the epidemic week 39 (September 26 to October 2).
“This is an indication that we still have a gap in our ICU beds and it should be resolved as soon as possible,” he said.
Sim said the government also need to strengthen its healthcare capacity to conduct the 3T of test, trace and treat quickly if there is a rise in new cases.
“Instead of locking down everyone with MCO, the healthcare system should be able to promptly identify and isolate patients for treatment,” he said.
On the Covid-19 cases in Penang, Sim said this is the third consecutive week where the state sees a downward trend in the number of positive cases and deaths.
“Our average daily cases dropped 23.5 per cent in epidemic week 37, 20.5 per cent in epidemic week 38 and a further 30.95 per cent in epidemic week 39,” he said.
From a record high daily cases of 2,474 cases on September 8, Penang daily cases dropped to 623 on October 6.
The rate of adult vaccination in the state has also achieved 86.5 per cent for two doses while a total 96.1 per cent have received their first dose.
“The percentage however could be much higher than reported because essentially there are no more names to be called on MySejahtera,” he said.
He believed that there are also those who took their vaccines privately but did not have their MySejahtera status updated.
“This is a nationwide issue which the Ministry of Health has to resolve quickly,” he said.
Sim said vaccination for adolescents will also be completed soon.