Improve local medical facilities to combat rabies, urges state rep

See (right) speaks to reporters at the press conference.

KUCHING, Feb 21: The federal government should allocate more funds for Sarawak to improve medical facilities to combat rabies and other infectious diseases in Sarawak hospitals, said Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How.

Urging the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee and the Sarawak Health Department to step up their efforts in containing rabies in the state, See asked whether the measure to vaccinate all dogs in the state is effective and whether there is adequate funding for the State Health Department.

“How effective will the measures undertaken now be, to stop the spread of this infectious disease and prevent further loss of human life?” See asked.

“I am more concerned with the inadequate funding for our State Health Department to be equipped to diagnose, treat and prevent the spread of rabies and other infectious diseases, the lack of specialist doctors, epidemiologists, consultants and trained medical officers in our general hospitals, and the poor coordination between the State Health Department and the various hospital and clinics,” See told a press conference today.

Since July 1 last year, 30 localities in five divisions in Sarawak, namely Serian, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Kuching and Sarikei, were declared as rabies-positive areas. Late in January, a 59-year-old man, from Jalan Batu Kawa-Matang succumbed to rabies encephalitis. He was the seventh victim of the rabies outbreak, raising the death toll to six.

See expressed his concern after he was informed that there is only one epidemiologist in Sarawak General Hospital and the state is poorly equipped with the necessary facilities for post exposure prophylaxis (preventive treatment).

“I want to know if the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee and the Sarawak Health Department had highlighted this fact to the federal Ministry of Health, since the rabies outbreak in July last year, to train more of our medical doctors and officers as infectious disease specialists and to upgrade our medical facilities such that we will have a full-fledged epidemiology unit in Sarawak to diagnose, treat and prevent the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases,” said the state PKR vice-chairman.

However, See said he was informed that there is not enough medical facilities for rabies confirmatory serology tests or diagnostic examination of blood serum for everyone and insufficient vaccines in local health units for post exposure prophylaxis (preventive treatment) to protect the victims and in most cases of animal scratches, the victims are given anti-tetanus vaccines and not rabies vaccines.

See added that the health units have so far not been blamed or accused of medical negligence, but these rabies blood tests should be viewed as life-saving, and the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee and the Sarawak Health Department must vigorously persuade the federal Ministry of Health to give the State Health Department sufficient allocation in order that such blood tests can be carried out more extensively by local health units.

“Are the various health units, the hospitals and clinics including private clinics, now properly coordinated with the State Health Department to keep records and monitor the number of medical cases of victims with animal bites and scratches each day?

“The Sarawak Disaster Management Committee and the Sarawak Health Department must be open and transparent with the records as a way to promote public awareness and to enhance the coordination of all local health units, and thereby be more effective to engage them in a concerted effort to combat this infectious disease,” said See. — DayakDaily