Sabah Health Department Overwhelmed Ngo Volunteers Infected
The Sabah Health Department has been "overwhelmed" by the task of treating, isolating, and tracking down hundreds of new Covid-19 patients in the state, said Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said the biggest challenge in Sabah has been logistics, which requires assistance from other agencies.
"The Sabah Health Department is overwhelmed... They have set up (a committee) at the state level for coordination.
"This means we are looking at transport, we are looking at the National Security Council... We need inter-ministry collaboration," he said at his daily Covid-19 briefing in Putrajaya.
Noor Hisham said while the Health Ministry has received help from NGOs, such efforts need coordination to avoid duplication of work and to ensure volunteers are working safely.
He said some volunteers are having contact with infected communities but not wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), not even gloves.
"Our fear is they will get infected, especially if they have no experience.
"Their intention is good but even our frontliners also get infected," he said, adding that there were now clusters of cases detected among volunteers.
He was responding to a question on why volunteers at Pulau Omadal off Semporna were tasked to monitor Covid-19 patients there.
The volunteers from community school Iskul Sama Dilaut Omadal told Malaysiakini they were tasked to inform villagers of positive test results, to brief them of quarantine requirements, and to observe them.
The volunteers said they were given these tasks probably because the patients are mostly stateless and fearful of immigration action if they go to the mainland to be quarantined.
The Omadal cluster has 21 cases to date, with testing done by medical NGO Imaret with support from the Semporna Health Office.
The NGO had urged for a quarantine centre to be set up at the local public school on the island, instead of having the volunteers visit the patients house to house.
Tough to set up quarantine centres on Sabah islands
Responding today, Noor Hisham said the ministry does not have the capacity to set up quarantine centres at the various Sabah islands.
"There are suggestions for us to build (quarantine centres) especially at the islands but this is very challenging because there are more than 46 islands and 26 are occupied.
"It's already challenging for us to bring our resources to the island. Some islands don't have electricity. We prefer to bring (the patients) to the mainland where we can set up better health facilities to treat them accordingly," he said.
Tawau man 'brought in dead'
Sabah recorded 410 new cases and two new deaths today, including an 82-year-old Malaysian man who had heart, chronic lung, and chronic kidney diseases.
The second death was a 53-year-old foreign man, whose nationality and medical history was not established.
Both cases were recorded in Tawau. One of them was found unconscious at home and brought in dead, Noor Hisham said.
He said the two cases were examples of how patient conditions could deteriorate rapidly once they reach stage three of the infection.
"Perhaps when they were in category one or two they were still doing well, but the deterioration from category three, four, or five was too fast, and sometimes (patients) are found dead at home.
"We already sent our forensics team (to collect the deceased) and there is a protocol for us to manage the brought-in-dead cases, and for us to do the swab tests (on the bodies)," he said.
Based on the case numbers assigned to the deceased in the past weeks, many of them were believed to have been brought in dead or in such severe condition that they die within 24 hours of seeking treatment.
Earlier, Noor Hisham said most of the fatalities were caused by co-morbidities and failure to seek treatment at an earlier stage of infection.
Sabah labs working overcapacity
On a separate matter, the DG said the Health Ministry has supplied 200,000 antigen rapid test kits to Sabah so tests can be done faster.
Yesterday, 3,259 RTK Antigen tests were done, of which 315 were positive - a positivity rate of 8.9 percent.
As at Oct 26, a total 90,372 RTK Antigen tests have been done in Sabah of which 5.2 percent were positive.
The RTK Antigen test can produce results within 24 hours while the more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test takes longer to process.
The backlog in processing PCR test samples meant patients have had to wait five or six days for results.
Sabah's three laboratories have the capacity of processing 2,600 PCR tests and processed 3,461 tests yesterday - 33 percent above capacity.
To assist the Sabah labs, samples have also been flown to labs in Peninsular Malaysia with the help of Pos Malaysia and the Royal Airforce, Noor Hisham said.
Nationwide, he said, the Health Ministry and its affiliated laboratories have the capacity to process 58,466 PCR tests a day and had processed 29,325 tests yesterday. - Mkini
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