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Malaysia’s private hospitals step up to fight COVID-19 as cases surge

KUALA LUMPUR: Private hospitals in Malaysia are preparing to play a much bigger position in combatting COVID-19, following the enactment of an emergency ordinance to mobilise assets of the private healthcare sector.

Hospitals concerned are at present changing a few of its wards to accommodate COVID-19, whereas some like Sunway Medical Centre, situated within the Klang Valley suburb of Subang Jaya, are increasing their capability to absorb extra cases.

In complete, 96 out of 210 registered private hospitals all through Malaysia have agreed to present COVID-19 remedy through the nation’s state of emergency, which is efficient from Jan 11 to Aug 1.

They will add a further 1,344 beds and 65 beds in intensive care models (ICU) for COVID-19 remedy, in accordance to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Thursday (Feb 4).

READ: What you need to know about the state of emergency and tightening COVID-19 curbs in Malaysia

This got here as Malaysia’s complete COVID-19 cases surpassed the 200,000-mark in late January, and the general public healthcare system was described to be at a “breaking point”. 

Back on Jan 11 when saying the reinstatement of the motion management order (MCO) to break the an infection chain, Mr Muhyiddin had mentioned that 15 public hospitals noticed non-ICU mattress utilization at over 70 per cent. 

In the Klang Valley, ICU mattress utilization had reached most capability at two main hospitals, whereas one other hospital had reached over 83 per cent capability, he added. 

As a part of the emergency effort, the federal government would combine each public and private hospital companies for higher coordination, mentioned Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali on Jan 26. 

Both public hospitals and collaborating private ones will function in a “hybrid cluster” underneath the Malaysian authorities’s COVID-19 Integrated Control Centre to deal with each COVID-19 and non-COVID 19 sufferers, based mostly on the Ministry of Health’s instructions.

READ: MCO extended in all Malaysian states except Sarawak until Feb 18, says senior minister Ismail Sabri

While the private sector was keen to play its position, there have been constraints to its assets and capabilities, Dr Kuljit Singh, head of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM), informed CNA. 

CONVERTING WARDS FOR COVID-19 

Given the infectiousness of COVID-19, cautious separation of sufferers from the final hospital populace is required at collaborating private hospitals.


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Mahkota Medical Centre is setting apart a particular ward of 15 beds and two ventilators for COVID-19 remedy. (Photo courtesy of Mahkota Medical Centre)

In Melaka, Mahkota Medical Centre’s chief government officer Stanley Lam defined that as a part of the constructing’s design and an infection management, there was already a devoted ward with a standalone air filtration system and upkeep system.

“We are currently converting this ward for COVID-19, with its own monitoring equipment and separate waste-handling,” he mentioned.

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Mahkota Medical’s chief government officer Stanley Lam. (Photo courtesy of Mahkota Medical Centre)

Other features such as separate entrances and lifts for the COVID-19 ward, and separate healthcare groups and workflows had been being instituted.

READ: Malaysia’s traders anticipated a sales boom before Chinese New Year, but the MCO has dented their hopes

At Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway Healthcare Group managing director Lau Beng Long mentioned the centre was already warding a restricted variety of COVID-19 sufferers of various severity.

“However, we are in the midst of expanding our capacity and capability to manage more COVID-19 cases,” he mentioned.

Likewise, an infection management can be a precedence and Mr Lau defined that the devoted COVID-19 beds are situated in a separate part of the hospital complicated, with devoted entrances and lifts as a part of the centre’s an infection prevention and management measures.

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Separate devoted entrances have been set up for COVID-19 sufferers at Sunway Medical Centre. (Photo courtesy of Sunway Healthcare Group)

“COVID-19 patients will have their own dedicated team of doctors, nurses and even housekeeping staff,” he informed CNA.

The hospital has additionally allotted additional assets to curb an infection, such as unfavourable strain cabins exterior their accident and emergency Department and ICUs (to forestall any attainable COVID-19 aerosols from escaping into open air), a disinfection robotic as properly as isolation pods to switch infectious illness sufferers safely.

Mr Lam of Mahkota Medical Centre mentioned prep work and readiness had been ongoing for the reason that Ministry of Health’s announcement on private involvement in mid-January.

“We’ve always ensured we have sufficient PPE and supplies, and are now setting up a dedicated COVID-19 ward for 15 normal beds and two with ventilators,” Mr Lam informed CNA.


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Sunway Medical Centre has allotted additional assets to put together devoted COVID-19 ward, together with placing up unfavourable strain cabins exterior the A&E division. (Photo courtesy of Sunway Healthcare Group) 

Likewise, Sunway Medical Centre has moved to allocate 10 per cent, or 50 of its operational beds, for its COVID-19 ward, and put money into additional assets.

“We’ve devoted adequate hospital resources for the care of non-COVID 19 patients, hence there is no diversion of resources when it comes to treating those with COVID-19,” Mr Lau informed CNA. 

He added that based mostly on the present state of affairs, affected person hundreds had been manageable and the medical facility’s assets had been in a position to deal with present demand.

READ: No visiting during Chinese New Year, reunion dinner among those in same household only, says Putrajaya

CHALLENGES FACED BY PRIVATE HOSPITALS

Ninety-six out of the 210 registered private hospitals agreeing to present COVID-19 remedy is  a practical quantity, APHM’s Dr Kuljit mentioned.

He defined this was based mostly on elements such as hospital dimension and structure, which could not be conducive for devoted housing of COVID-19 sufferers.

“The infrastructure and expertise, we do have it, just not on the same scale as the government, as private hospitals are built in a certain way to cater for a certain group and number of patients,” he informed CNA.

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Dr Kuljit Singh, the present president for the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM). (Photo courtesy of Dr Kuljit Singh)

Private hospitals, he mentioned, couldn’t “overdo” when it comes to seeing or treating extra COVID-19 sufferers due to their pre-existing infrastructure or inadequate personnel, from specialist medical doctors to nurses.

“Each hospital is managing COVID-19 based on their capacity and capabilities. The major ones in particular are seeing the number of patients they can manage depending on the normal and ICU beds they’ve allotted for COVID-19 patients” Dr Kuljit mentioned.

READ: Reciprocate government’s gesture of not shutting down economy by complying with SOPs, urges Malaysian PM Muhyiddin

From a regulatory perspective, he added, a private hospital’s variety of beds and sufferers it may cater for was additionally ruled by its working licence and laws concerning private healthcare amenities and companies.


“Thus we are constrained by operating costs, regulations as well as basic patient and healthcare practitioner safety,” mentioned Dr Kuljit.

However, Dr Kuljit famous that private hospitals, whether or not or not they had been one of many collaborating 96, had been nonetheless compelled to deal with any sufferers, even when they’ve examined optimistic for COVID-19.

“When you get a patient on your doorstep, you don’t have a choice, you treat the patient first, even if he or she’s positive (for COVID-19).

“Most of the time, especially now, government facilities are full, so like it or not, you have to treat, whether they are Category 1 to 5 (classification of COVID-19 symptoms by severity), or stabilise them, then get ready to transfer them to either a government facility or one of the 96 private facilities which can treat them,” he added.

PATIENTS HAVE TO PAY FOR COVID-19 TREATMENT 

A problem on this hybrid public-private scheme is the cost, as private hospitals have to generate income to proceed working.

According to Sunway’s Mr Lau, COVID-19 sufferers who sought remedy on the medical centre had been private pay. 

“The fee structure for COVID-19 patients is in line with current fees for non-COVID-19 patients,” he mentioned.

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Medical employees conduct a COVID-19 swab check in Malaysia. (Photo: AP)

According to Dr Kuljit, Malaysia’s insurance coverage suppliers have determined not to present protection for COVID-19 remedy for coverage holders at present.

He mentioned it has now been left to the well being and finance ministries, as properly as Bank Negara Malaysia, the nation’s central financial institution, to cope with the insurance coverage business.

READ: Away from their families, Malaysians in Singapore brace themselves for a quiet Chinese New Year

A health worker wearing a protective suit arranges hospital bed at Emergency Department in the Kual

A well being employee carrying a protecting swimsuit arranges hospital mattress at Emergency Department within the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, amid the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/Files

As issues stood, Dr Kuljit mentioned, private hospitals’ revenues had fallen far under 2019’s. The financial downturn and ensuing results such as cost-cutting measures or companies folding meant sufferers would maintain off remedy or search extra inexpensive remedy at authorities amenities, he mentioned. 

In addition, the ban on worldwide journey meant that medical vacationers, usually a big part of Malaysia’s private healthcare income, had been virtually non-existent.

“But costs remain fixed, in terms of maintaining and upgrading our equipment and our trained staff,” Dr Kuljit mentioned.

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