Sarawak’s main hospital struggles with Covid wave as private centres cease virus treatment

The current spike in Covid-19 infections in Sarawak is threatening to overwhelm the state’s main hospital as private medical centres cease the treatment of non-critical virus patients, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

While the government usually turns to the private healthcare sector if hospitals dedicated to the treatment of Covid-19 patients are running at maximum capacity, MalaysiaNow understands that private facilities in Sarawak have not been treating non-urgent cases for two months now.

A source privy to such matters said private hospitals are refusing to accept Covid-19 cases.

“Private hospitals are not accepting patients who are found to be positive for the virus,” it said.

“For example, a patient comes in for dialysis at a private hospital but tests positive after being swabbed. When private hospitals find positive patients like this, they refuse to give treatment and the patients are pushed to Sarawak General Hospital.”

This has caused a dramatic increase of Covid-19 patients in the ICU ward at Sarawak General Hospital, which is now struggling to cope as it battles to clear backlogged deaths due to the highly contagious virus.

Sarawak yesterday reported 28 deaths from Covid-19 including backlogged cases, its highest number of daily reported fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

Of these, the state disaster management committee said 25 cases were backlogged, with nine occurring on Oct 10, seven on Oct 9, six on Oct 8, three on Oct 11, two on Oct 7 and one on Sept 30.

Sarawak has been leading in terms of vaccination rate and had 89.8% of its adult population fully jabbed as of yesterday.

However, it has also been posting among the highest numbers in terms of daily infections, mostly asymptomatic and mild cases.

According to the health ministry’s Github data repository, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care in Sarawak has increased dramatically since August.

Sarawak has also seen an upward trend in hospital admissions and the number of patients requiring ventilation.

When contacted, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah acknowledged that the health system is working under pressure but said the situation is still manageable.

He said non-Covid cases had been outsourced to private hospitals for elective surgeries.

“For now, severe Covid-19 patients in Sarawak are managed at government hospitals as the resources are still sufficient and manageable at government hospitals,” he told MalaysiaNow, adding that the ministry through the Sarawak health department is working closely with private hospitals and clinics in handling the pandemic.

But the Sarawak disaster management committee and health department have been criticised over the state’s Covid-19 situation.

According to the health ministry’s CovidNow website, out of 108 patients in ICU, 48 require ventilation.

Noor Hisham assured that the ministry is closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation, with various measures in place.

He said private hospitals would also assist in the event of a surge in severe cases requiring additional ICU beds.

“Efforts have been made at numerous health ministry hospitals to expand their capacity and that of clinics, and to mobilise human resources,” he said.

Adding that the situation remains dynamic, he said the state health department is also keeping a close watch on matters.

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