JOHOR BAHRU – Despite having to handle funeral preparation for the remains of up to 18 COVID-19 patients in a day, Faizah Hamezah has never considered her task as difficult, and even viewed it as a ‘fardhu kifayah’ (compulsory communal obligation) that she is required to perform.
Despite calls from her own family members to quit, Faizah, 40, continued to do this noble task, fully aware of the reality and the huge risks that she faced daily.
“(In a day), sometimes I have to manage five or six bodies, and the most that I have managed thus far is 18 patients in a day. Prior to this, I have managed HIV patients, but I think managing COVID-19 patients is an extra ‘struggle’ for me. Furthermore, most of them are category 5 patients.
“At first, my family members disallowed me from continuing to do this job. But I told them that if I did not come forward to help handling the female COVID-19 patients, who else would do it ?” she said when met by Bernama at the Forensic Medicine Department, Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA), here recently.
The mother of five said that, however, over time, her family members understood and supported her to fulfil her role and responsibility in handling the remains of COVID-19 patients the best she can.
She said that she would always be ready to be called to perform the task entrusted to her, as there would be deaths due to the virus daily.
“For handling COVID-19 patients, I have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), and the hospital will look (carefully) to detect whether there is a leak or not. I have to always be healthy and fit to manage the bodies,” she said.
Faizah is among those appointed by the Johor Islamic Religious Department, and received direct training from the Ministry of Health (HSA’s Forensic Medicine Department), as a special officer for COVID-19 funeral management (female), which includes bathing, shrouding, prayer and burial.
Apart from the HSA, she also carries out a similar task for COVID-19 patients at the Sultan Ismail Hospital here, since March last year.
Experienced in managing the remains of Muslim women for the past 16 years, Faizah said that among the experiences and situations that saddened her while performing the task was seeing the family members of the COVID-19 victims not being able to participate in managing the body of loved ones.
She said that not only could they not see the victim’s face for the last time, but they also had to put their full trust in the COVID-19 funeral management staff to complete the funeral of their loved ones.
“What is really sad is when the next-of-kin pleaded to us to allow more than two people to see the bodies (during identification), but we can’t allow it as we have to adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs),” said Faizah, who was a teacher from 1999 to 2004.
She added that the remains of Muslim COVID-19 patients in the Johor Bahru district would be buried at one of three Muslim cemeteries, namely, the Ar-Raudhah Muslim Cemetery in Taman Mount Austin, Taman Impian Emas Muslim Cemetery in Skudai and Cahaya Masai Muslim Cemetery in Pasir Gudang.