KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry (MoH) has ramped up its capacity to treat Covid-19 cases in Sabah to control the spread of the disease in the state.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said five key initiatives have been taken to ensure the state’s public health and medical system was efficient and effective in curbing virus transmission.
The efforts taken, he said, were increased capacity of the RT-PCR and RTK Antigen laboratory tests, number of beds at Covid-19 hospitals as well as Quarantine and Low Risk Treatment Centres (PKRC), ventilators and ICU beds, mobilisation of healthcare personnel, and outsourcing of medical services for non-Covid-19 cases.
He said the laboratory testing capacity in Sabah had doubled since July — where the RT-PCR test capacity was 1,350 tests — to 2,600 RT-PCR tests a day.
“Daily RT-PCR samples are sent to the Institute of Medical Research Institute (IMR) and the National Public Health Laboratory (MKAK) using the services of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and Pos Laju.
“Outsourcing services to private laboratories have also been done. On Oct 16, for instance, 4,327 tests were outsourced to private laboratories so that more screening could be done.
“Since October, some 100,000 RTK Antigen test kits will be sent monthly, primarily to Sabah to help with Covid-19 screening,” he said.
He also said Sabah now has nine Covid-19 hospitals and 21 PKRCs.
“The number of Covid-19 and PKRC hospital beds has been increased 2.5 times, from 2,129 beds at the beginning of September to 5,414 beds currently. The current bed usage rate (BOR) is 35 percent.
“The field hospital done in hand with the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) in Tawau will house 100 beds for non-Covid-19 patients so that more beds in Tawau Hospital can be used for Covid-19 patients.”
Dr Noor Hisham further said ventilators and ICU beds have been obtained through procurement using special allocations by the government and also donations from various parties.
In Sabah, he said, there were 180 ventilators where the usage rate is 32 percent (this also includes usage by non-Covid-19 cases). The total number of ICU beds in the state stood at 122 beds, of which the utilisation rate is 72 per cent (this also includes use by non-Covid-19 cases), he said.
He noted that to increase the number of ICU beds, the Health Ministry has re-purposed clinical areas in several health facilities where areas within the hospital were modified to treat critical Covid-19 (modular ward ICU).
“Innovations to enable one ventilator machine to be used by two Covid-19 patients have also been introduced. This is called ‘ventilator splitter’ which uses 3D printing technology (which has also been implemented in several other countries.”
On the mobilisation of healthcare personnel, Dr Noor Hisham said 767 personnel from various categories and service schemes nationwide have been deployed to Tawau, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu.
He said another 99 personnel (36 Public Health staff and 63 Medical staff) would be leaving for Sabah this week and next week.
“The ministry will conduct contract appointments (contract of service) for 1,899 health workers, subject to the approval of the central agency. They will be mobilised to states in need, especially Sabah.
“We have also intensified the involvement of more volunteers from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and individual volunteers in dealing with this crisis.
“The number of feedback received from interested parties is very encouraging. To date, 4,794 registrations have been received and are still in the process of being screened. More volunteers are called upon to help the ministry in this joint venture. So far, two NGOs have sent their 15 members to Sabah.”
To ensure services and treatment to non-Covid-19 cases were not affected, Dr Noor Hisham said the Sabah State Health Department had discussed and signed several agreements with private hospitals.
The private hospitals involved with the outsourcing are: Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), Hospital Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu, Hospital Gleneagles Pulau Pinang, KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital, Tawau Specialist Medical Centre, and Jesselton Medical Centre.