Adham denies doctors ordered to prioritise younger Covid-19 patients in ventilator use

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Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has denied that doctors are prioritising younger patients and turning away the elderly when it comes to ventilator use due to a shortage of medical resources.

“That is not true. We have not reached that stage,” he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.

“The ministry is always stepping up our capacity and supplies of equipment to ensure that they are administered to everyone in need,” he said.

He was responding to a frontline health worker who claimed on Twitter that older patients with comorbidities would not receive ventilator support. The tweet was later deleted by the doctor.

“If you are above 60 with comorbidities coming in with severe Covid-19, we are not going to intubate you because we are saving the ventilator for the younger ones with good premorbid. The time for idealistic treatment has passed. We have to treat with our limited resources,” the doctor had said.

Other doctors serving on the frontlines, however, said they had not been instructed to keep the ventilators for younger patients.

A doctor in Terengganu who asked to remain anonymous said he had received no such orders, nor had he heard any rumours to the effect.

“To say something like this is against the Hippocratic oath,” said a doctor in Terengganu.

“Unless resources become very limited, for example, you have 300 patients but only 100 ventilators, then the government might want to say that. Right now, our resources are low, but it is still manageable,” he said.

“Whenever we make a decision to intubate, we have to consider a lot of things. We make the decision based on the condition, availability of infrastructure and manpower and patient autonomy,” he said.

Another doctor, who is based in Penang, also denied the rumour. She said it was not right to deprive a patient of a ventilator even if the intensive care unit (ICU) beds are filled.

“No, no such thing. It’s getting quite tight, but not to that extent. It’s not right to do that, we would be playing God (if we do that),” she said.

The number of cases treated in ICUs had reached 641 cases as of yesterday.

Malaysia has been struggling with the resurgence of Covid-19 since mid-April. The country recorded 4,855 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, marking the fourth time the number of daily cases has exceeded 4,000 a day in the past week.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he expects the daily Covid-19 cases to pass the 10,000 mark in the next few weeks if nothing is done to prevent the spread of the new variants.

The past week saw more Covid-19 variants detected in the community. Some of these variants were known to have faster transmission, dampened vaccine efficacy, and enhanced ability to re-infect Covid-19 survivors.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had instructed hospital directors nationwide to brace for another spike of cases due to faster transmission, the festive season and inadequate vaccination coverage.

On May 8, he warned that the country is running out of Covid-19 ICU beds as 19 public hospitals nationwide have more than 70 percent of ICU beds filled.

“At the moment we still have the capacity, but we do not want to be like countries (where) we have to select who will live and who will die,” the top official had warned. – Malaysiakini