Be vigilant to avoid “Who should have the last ventilator” scenario in Sarawak

A file photo of ventilators being sent to Miri Hospital in the fight against Covid-19.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Jan 7: Sarawakians must be vigilant in fighting Covid-19 to prevent “Who should use the last ventilator” scenario from happening in Sarawak.

This is the advice of Sarawak Health director Dr Chin Zin Hing who earnestly urged Sarawakians to closely follow standard operating procedures (SOP) laid down by Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to minimise the transmission of Covid-19 infections in Sarawak.

Citing the four-digit increase in number of daily cases in Peninsular Malaysia, Dr Chin warned Sarawakians that rising Covid-19 cases will put stress on Sarawak healthcare system.

“Sarawak has no luxury of a lot of beds for Covid-19 patients and ICU (Intensive Care Unit) patients also need ventilators support. We need to keep Sarawak safe by keeping down the cases as low as possible so we can manage. If the number continues to climb, with 76 patients now still in the hospital wards statewide, it will definitely stress out the healthcare system in Sarawak.

“We don’t want to face the situation where we have to select people to be admitted due to limited number of bed capacity,” he pointed out at a Covid-19 press conference held at the Old State Assembly Complex here today.

Dr Chin thus urged all Sarawakians to continue to comply with the SOP including wearing face masks, sanitising hands, washing hands and limiting gathering as much as possible.

“This message should be clear and applied to everyone not only in yellow zone but (also in green zone) to protect the green zone from turning to yellow which could escalate to red zone very fast,” he said.

He disclosed that Sarawak Health Department has allocated about 900 beds in preparation for Covid-19 pandemic but the figure could change and fluctuate.

“When there is no or less Covid-19 patients, these beds will be opened up for other patients. On the other hand, if Covid-19 cases were to increase, these beds will be converted to become Covid-19 wards,” he explained.

Presently, Dr Chin revealed that there were only 75 ICU beds throughout Sarawak with 62 in Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) while the rest spread across in the Miri Hospital, Sibu Hospital and Bintulu Hospital.

However, he reminded that ICU beds may also be needed by other patients who have undergone major surgery and requiring ventilators support.

Apart from ICU bed, Dr Chin also brought up the issue of manpower should Covid-19 cases continue to increase as one nurse is needed to man one ICU bed and monitor the ventilator.

“The rise in cases could also affect other healthcare services as well where follow-up appointments and treatments will be postponed and rescheduled,” he warned.

Since the attack of Covid-19 in February and the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in many parts of the world in the last few months, the main concern of healthcare providers across the world is the availability of manpower, medication and equipment to tackle the pandemic.

“Who should get the last ventilator?” or “Who should get the last bed?” are the questions raised by medical care providers in face of ever lacking resources but increasing Covid-19 cases.— DayakDaily