Pleas of frontliners

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Driven by fear and frustration, a group of front-line doctors from hospitals in the Klang Valley narrated the grim and heart-breaking working conditions they faced everyday battling the Covid-19 pandemic in an online discussion now going viral.

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

“The ship has sunk, we are drowning,” the doctors said, adding that Malaysia is facing an apocalypse like the recent situation in India and the one in Italy in 2020.

The doctors spoke to the Projek #Bangsa Malaysia platform on condition of anonymity. Many of them were sobbing when they told their horror stories in the video entitled The Pleas of Our Frontliners, which was recorded on July 9.

Projek #Bangsa Malaysia had altered the pitch of their voices to conceal their identities. Their faces and the hospitals they work in were not revealed.

“If you think the ship is still sailing, I think it has sunk. If you think houses are not yet burning it is already burning,” one doctor said.

Another one claimed the number of Covid-19 cases was under-reported as, based on the positivity rate, one in 10 people could already have contracted the virus.

“Even the death rate of Covid-19 we announce in the mass media is not exactly reflective of the death rate we are seeing,” one doctor said.

“The deaths are much higher. MoH (Health Ministry) does not report if the patient dies of something else with Covid-19, or if a patient is already past the 14 days and then they suffer from blood clot in the lungs or blood clot in the legs or heart attack or stroke.”

They said Covid-19 deaths were happening due to limited resources.

Hospitals are also suffering from limited oxygen supply while intensive care units (ICU) are being “clogged up” as some patients take a very long time to recover. The recovery process could stretch for months in some cases.

“We need more equipment. We need more oxygen tanks. For the past few weeks, we are dealing with shortages of major medications that we use to treat Covid-19 patients.

“We’re not receiving help from HQ (ministry) and we are basically dying in this battle,” one doctor said.

The doctor said they cannot afford to submit proposals at budget meetings for funds to buy oxygen tanks as there is not enough time due to the paperwork involved. She added that their efforts to carry out fundraising were also shunned by the authorities.

A houseman on the video said she had to handle four to five wards on different levels while she was on call at night.

“We don’t have enough specialists, consultants, MOs (medical officers), housemen. When are we getting enough manpower to support us? When are the new people coming in? It is really stressful,” she said while sobbing uncontrollably.

“I am a houseman, but they just put me to cover four to five wards. It is on different levels and I just have to juggle here and there.”

Two other doctors said the manpower crunch is further exacerbated as more doctors, nurses and medical assistants contract the virus, crippling operations.

Half-baked MCO

They also slammed authorities for the poor policymaking and half-baked movement-control order (MCO).

“We still remember the Sabah elections. Those who came back did not quarantine. The MCO was half-baked, MPs were breaching the standard operating procedure. We remember all of that,” one doctor said.

Another lamented the gag order imposed on MoH staff.

“I know my colleagues are still fighting hard and I think what is even more frustrating is they can’t say anything,” he said.

“Right now, every time we try to expose it, they will tell everyone and the mass media that the situation is under control when we are like ‘Hello we are drowning here’.

“Instead of recruiting new doctors we are recruiting new teachers. The schools are closed and we are recruiting new teachers?” another doctor said.

One doctor also urged the government to learn from countries such as New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan, which have successfully implemented a strategy to contain the virus.

Klang Valley hospitals have been packed to the brim over the last few months as Covid-19 cases mount.

Malaysia yesterday recorded 8,574 new infections, taking the cumulative total to 844,870 since the start of the pandemic.

Active cases increased to 91,272 with 964 in the ICU and, of this number, 452 needed respiratory assistance.

Meanwhile, 102 patients succumbed to the virus yesterday, taking the number of fatalities to 6,260. – TMI