MAF personnel can be deployed as frontliners

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by AFP

THE Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) could mobilise its medical personnel who were repatriated from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to be frontliners in battling the Covid-19 pandemic in this country.

“The repatriation of MAF medical personnel has enabled the Armed Forces Hospitals to operate at full capacity nationwide. At the same time, they can be deployed locally as part of the whole-of-government effort in combating the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic which is currently showing an upward trend,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

The ministry said the government has ended the Malaysian Field Hospital (MFH) operation at the refugee camp following a downtrend in the number of patients with the situation in the camp area stabilised.

It said the MFH was manned by 56 personnel on a rotational basis, which consisted of 20 MAF officers, including eight physicians, 30 members of other ranks of the Royal Medical Corps and six civilian nurses.

Until March 2020, the MAF had sent five medical teams to the MFH.

The ministry said the total number of patients monthly had shown a downward trend, in which only 1,690 people sought treatment at the MFH in February 2020.

The MFH recorded 8,763 patients in November 2018, its highest monthly number since the establishment.

The ministry also said there are six additional field hospitals established by the government of Turkey and other international non-governmental organisations, such as Mèdecins Sans Frontiéres, HOPE Foundation, MSF Spain, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and Friendship, which are located within the refugee camp.

It said these field hospitals give more options and access to healthcare services to Rohingya refugees and locals, thus reducing their dependency on the MFH which was located outside the refugee camp.

“Based on current developments, the government has decided to end the MFH operation earlier in 2020 compared to the original operational mandate which ends in December 2021. The establishment of the MFH had succeeded in achieving its objectives and this withdrawal neither affects bilateral relations between Malaysia and Bangladesh nor the country’s image,” the statement read.

Throughout the operating period from November 2017 to March 2020, it said the total number of patients treated at the MFH was 108,038 people.

MFH personnel also performed more than 3,500 surgeries, including 900 high-risk surgeries.

The ministry said the MFH became the primary focus for Rohingya refugees to seek treatment since it was the only field hospital capable of providing Level 3 services at that time, even though it was located outside the refugee camp.

Among the services provided were general surgery, orthopaedics, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthesia, X-rays, and other key treatments such as family health, emergency, dental and radiology, as well as laboratory.

It added that the MFH gained the World Health Organisation’s recognition as the best, most well-equipped and most trusted Level 3 Hospital, and subsequently became a referral hospital in the district.

“As a responsible member of the international community, Malaysia is deeply concerned about the Rohingya humanitarian crisis and will continue to play a role in highlighting Rohingya issues at regional and international levels, including through bilateral and multilateral platforms, particularly in finding long-term solutions to these issues,” it said.