Days since MCO

MCO started on Mar 18, 2020

DAYS

Days till RMCO lifted

RMCO expected to lift on Mar 31, 2021

DAYS

Our coverage on COVID‑19

5 key measures to reduce the COVID-19 raging fire

Many individuals and groups have voiced suggestions to manage our raging COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia, however few appear to have been considered. Allow me to summarise five key measures we critically need to take to help put out the COVID-19 raging fire in our nation.

1. Test Extensively

Ramping up our PCR tests to 100,000 a day is insufficient. PCRs are labour intensive and results are usually delayed. If it takes 3-5 days to get a result, this limits the value of the testing. We need hundreds of thousands of RTK-Ag tests on the ground.

With a 1 hour result time they offer a rapid response and action when positive. Even if they are only 75% sensitive, it significantly mutes the pandemic. Equivocal results can be sent for PCR. We should keep PCRs for patients requiring admission and testing in high risk symptomatic persons (over 60 years with major comorbids).

2. Restore Contact Tracing

Contact tracing activities have been swamped by the huge numbers and have currently failed. We must learn from other nations. Rapidly employ 10,000+ retrenched non-medical professionals, train and use them to re-establish contact tracing in all states. This will also free health staff to do more vital tasks. We must dramatically improve our hand phone applications to allow for a seamless contact tracing and notification of the public.

3. Support MOH Staff

Our MOH staff are long past burnt out. The burden of excessive work, long hours wearing PPE, fears of getting COVID-19 and lack of adequate emotional support have wrought havoc to a health system that was always fragile and inadequate.

SEE ALSO:  Responding to COVID-19 under-testing claims, Dr Noor Hisham says Malaysia did more than enough

We must immediately offer permanent jobs to all MOH staff on contract, as well as hire all available doctors, pharmacists and nurses waiting for jobs. Also consider graduating all final year doctors, pharmacists and nurses, using their continued formative assessments and prior examinations results as a proxy indicator of performance.

4. Improve Home Quarantine

Home quarantine is useful for COVID-19 individuals who are well and healthy. However maintaining home quarantine for large numbers is a challenge. There are numerous reports of those who are supposed to be under home quarantine, either positive or close contact of a confirmed case, travelling outside their home to get food, visit a doctor, etc.

In addition there have been numerous individuals lost at what to do at home and waiting for days for MOH personnel to contact them. There must be a mechanism to improve the current home quarantine. We should hire and train retrenched non-medical professionals and use them to monitor and support these individuals. It may be important for MOH to offer hospitalised quarantine for those over 60 years with major comorbids, as they are at high risk for death.

5. Widen Pick Up Services

Individuals who are found COVID-19 positive and require hospitalisation should not have to wait. Currently we hear many anecdotal reports of these persons waiting for a few days for admission. We recognise that the MOH ambulance services are overwhelmed. We need to urgently widen the pick-up services. We can train and use private ambulance services, especially for those who are more ill. For those who are mildly ill and require hospitalisation, we could work with established transport services (taxis, Grab, etc) to provide a dedicated pick up service with good PPE and protection for the drivers.

SEE ALSO:  COVID-19: Record high 25 deaths today, new cases remain under 3,000 for 5 straight days

When there is a huge fire raging in a large region, using hand-held fire extinguishers will not work. We cannot continue with the same initiatives we have practised thus far to control the vast local outbreak. Using imaginative, out-of-the box strategies are necessary. No one person or organisation has all the solutions/answers. Listening to diverse views is critical.

This opinion piece was contributed by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Senior Consultant Paediatrician. If you have an article or opinion that you would like to contribute for the benefit everyone, share it with us here.

[ IMAGE SOURCE ]

Related reading