Private hospitals to treat severe Covid-19 cases

Under emergency ordinance, private healthcare facilities that fail to provide resources to the government could be fined or imprisoned


UP TO 95 out of 130 private hospitals have agreed to treat Covid-19 patients in the severe Categories 3-5.

According to the agreement between the public-private healthcare providers, Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (picture) said private hospitals will share their resources in providing up to 1,286 beds to treat Covid-19 patients.

He said this is made possible following the emergency proclamation which resulted in an engagement between the Health Ministry (MoH) and private healthcare providers to meet on Jan 23 and deliberate on an action plan in managing the pandemic.

Dr Noor Hisham attributed this to the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, which requires private healthcare facilities to provide resources to the government for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

On top of this, there are 65 intensive care unit beds with 54 ventilation machines that can be used to treat critically ill patients.

“It is a good indicator that within a week after the engagement, private hospitals have responded and agreed to offer their resources,” he told a virtual media briefing yesterday.

Last week, Dr Noor Hisham noted that public hospitals designated for Covid-19 treatments were almost at their maximum capacity to accommodate additional patients to the number of beds available, leading to a shortage in beds.

Under the ordinance, private healthcare facilities that fail to provide resources to the government or refuse temporary government takeover of their property in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic could be subject to a RM5 million fine or 10 years’ imprisonment, or both.

“However, we do not want to be rigorous in enforcing such law, but instead we do engagements with them,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

Besides providing the facilities from private hospitals, the DG said public healthcare officers will also accommodate the shortage or unavailability of medicines at private healthcare facilities.

“There are some medicines that could treat the disease, but it is not available at the private hospital, so we will lend this medication to them and they will return it to us later,” he said.

“So, this is the importance of the ordinance, which also allows an officer of one hospital to move to another hospital, either from private to private or private to public.

“This is the cooperation that we need,” Dr Noor Hisham added.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said the reimplementation of the second Movement Control Order (MCO) which began on Jan 13 is showing positive signs in terms of declining infections.

Yesterday, Malaysia added another 3,048 Covid-19 cases, but Dr Noor Hisham believes that the situation could stabilise soon.

“Now, the strategy is to not have any spike of cases and it should stabilise at the figure of around 3,000 daily cases, then we expect to ease the restriction with the Conditional MCO until May.

“By that time, we hope that we can enter two digits of daily infection before we can relax the MCO further,” he said when asked about the ministry’s exit strategy for MCO 2.0.

The DG also noted that the R-naught (R0) or infectivity rate has improved from 1.2 to 1.06, adding that he expected the R0 to drop further.

“So now, with more (available) hospitals and beds while daily cases are expected to be stabilised, we hope we can achieve the two-digit daily infection by May,” he added.

When asked why MCO 2.0 is not similar to the first MCO which was implemented last March, Dr Noor Hisham said at that time, the public healthcare system was not ready to facilitate any spike of the newfound virus.

However, he said as the ministry takes this as a learning curve, it is vital to balance the importance of public health and the economic sector, while noting that the strict enforcement during the two months’ MCO last year is overdone.

“Although the factory, construction site and services clusters complied with the strict standard operating procedures at the workplace, the dormitory issue was actually the main cause on why the virus spreads fast.

“So, you are not solving the fundamental issue if we implement a strict lockdown like the first MCO,” he said.

At the media briefing yesterday, the MoH also announced the establishment of the new Covid-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) and Unified Command Centre (UCC), aimed to streamline the effort in fighting the pandemic.

Among others, the CAC team — which will be located at various public clinics — will assess the suitability and safety of Covid-19 patients to serve home quarantine, instead of being brought to the hospital.

On the other hand, the UCC will be the command centre that oversees and coordinates all matters related to the operational and clinical management, so the ministry can manage resources in an efficient manner.

The ministry also updated that 2.9 billion of check-ins have been recorded via the MySejahtera application since it was launched early last year, with 27 million registered users and 1.5 million premises.

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