Hannah Yeoh: Honour and Hope in Our Frontliners

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Segambut MP on the silver lining of the MCO – the display of resilience by the healthcare professionals.

Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali/NST

If you’re a doctor, nurse, or medical staff working in government hospitals and clinics, this love letter is for you. In this time of unprecedented crisis, you are our heroes, although you don’t have a cape hanging around your neck.

While we are safe at home, you’re not. While we work from the comfort of our homes, you work round the clock in hospitals battling a virus that has ravaged our nation and devastated the globe. You know that saving other people’s lives means risking your own, yet you don’t walk away. You know that the nature of your job means that your families and loved ones are also put at risk, yet you stay on anyway and fulfil your duty.

To all the retired doctors and nurses who have heeded the government’s call to volunteer and step out of retirement, how can we even begin to thank you? This display of courage and selflessness remind everyone of that pure noble calling of serving in the healthcare profession.

We cannot imagine just how difficult it must be for you to be separated from your own families, having to maintain a distance from them to reduce the possibility of infection. Not being able to show them physical affection even when you’re not on duty, not being able to be together as a family.

I had my own scare having been established as a close contact and while waiting for my test results, I refrained from hugging my children and that was painful. I overload them with hugs and kisses now, but each time I hold them, I cannot help but think of you frontliners who are being denied from doing the same with your children.

Just like us, you have friends and families. You have a spouse who loves you, children who need you, parents who worry about you. Understandably, your constant exposure to Covid-19 patients worries your loved ones, for they do not want to lose you. And neither do we.

The world is watching how Malaysia strives to flatten the curve. The silver lining of this Movement Control Order (“MCO”) has to be the display of resilience by the healthcare professionals we have in our healthcare system. Many also expressed their surprise by the professional conduct of the Director-General (DG) of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

In September 2018, the then Harapan Government made a significant administrative change to the civil service by replacing the phrase “saya yang menurut perintah” (“I who obey orders”) used in official Government letters with the phrase “saya yang menjalankan amanah” (“I who carry out the trust”). This significant departure from the “norm” back then was made by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during a Town Hall session with administrative and diplomatic officers when we first gained power.

When I see the DG openly dismissing the claim of drinking warm water and the act of sanitizing roads made infamous by Ministers, it restores my faith in the civil service. Judging by the conduct of the frontliners in the Ministry of Health during this MCO, I dare say we have hope!

The views expressed here are strictly those of the writer.