It isn’t carved in stone just yet, but the writings are already up there on the wall. Yes, there were reasons enough to wallow upon the decree for the yet another two-weeks return of the Movement Control Order (MCO) covering the entire nation to quash the COVID-19 pandemic till January 26th.
Momma I can’t come home to who the heck is going to pay me my salary. Darn.
But many missed the tell-tale signs that the Prime Minister was trying to tell the nation. And if this last fabric of defence falls apart, the whole nation shall tear loose! Perhaps to shreds. Irreparable.
Daily cases from double to triple digits and now into the thousands, the government is in a “veiled state of panic-mode” putting up a smiley front. It is a delicate balance no one should want to envy and, boy what a mess things are now. The protracted politics and power struggles aside, the nation’s bastion of healthcare is now heading for a rough ride. The statistics alone are daunting. And PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin’s speech writers carefully sandwiched this in his nationwide live address. Sadly, only a few could read between the lines.
He openly admitted on Monday 11th of January that things have gotten out of hand. Meaning the government is beginning to lose grip of the matter. The trend is very alarming thus there is a need for drastic solutions to break the pandemic chain. The daily curves must be flattened at all cost so that they can become manageable. This is, in admission, that matters are not manageable as for now.
He said the government sympathises and emphatises with the medical frontliners and law keepers who keep people at bay. And he said this loud and clear:
“Our frontliners are getting exhausted and the situation of our nation’s healthcare is critical (read: government healthcare could crumble if this pandemic won’t stop and citizens do not abide).
That message alone should send shivers through our veins. But we are mostly caught up in rueful domestic politics or worse, simply do not care. Ever thought what would happen if you rush into the ED of your local hospital or clinic and no one runs to greet you at least with a wheelchair or stretcher? That was what Muhyiddin was trying to tell Malaysians, the blissful ignorant lot that we are.
If this country was going to war, the army and the police would become the frontliners. But this last fabric of defence of healthcare can not be made to collapse at the expense of the people. No.
But it definitely can by itself; if all else doesn’t fall into place in due time. When doctors, nurses, paramedics and supporting medical staff throw up their arms in the air and stage a walk-out, who the heck will replace them? Politicians?
If that wasn’t enough to raise the bells and whistles, he went on to say that as of now, facilities under the Ministry of Health can no longer handle the rising number of patients now into the 2,000-3,000 bracket daily.
And he admits, partly in English to emphasise: “Our healthcare system is at breaking point. I want to clarify the reality of our health system that we are now facing. Fifteen COVID-19 hospitals have recorded bed occupancies (non-ICU) of over 70%.
“In the Klang Valley alone, utilisation of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients at Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Universiti Malaya Medical Centre have reached 100%, while that of Hospital Sungai Buloh has soared to 83%.
“Meanwhile, the occupancy rate of ICU beds for COVID-19 cases have exceeded 70% in five states namely Selangor, Melaka, Terengganu and Sarawak,” says Muhyiddin.
And Malaysians still don’t see that as an alarming problem – because they have yet to become patients. Sickly, measly, and panting for breath.
It is so saddening to know that while risking their lives to let others live another day, there are over 1,450 medical staff members of all occupations who have contracted the virus or have been ordered to undergo home quarantine for being exposed to such patients. It is such an exasperation too to be told that there were cases where exposed patients who were dishonest by not disclosing their case histories of mingling with others who had the virus and only to find out later on that they too were infected. Many frontliners were in angst that their own lives are at stake due to these care-less gallivanting public who tell them half-truths while getting treatment for their early symptoms.
What has gotten into our heads that we keep hearing that this pandemic which is already killing lives is all a farce and conspiracy by certain quarters? The frontliners too have kids, spouses and loved ones to care about. If it is anyone, they would be the ones to show us how patients with the disease suffer with every attempt at inhaling free oxygen. But they would still brave it all for us Malaysians. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
We do not know our limits, our role in reciprocity. We still attend weddings, parties and snoop around sometimes without masks on.
We think that the 5,263 deaths of 0.41% of sufferers will never ever get to us. Think again. We may not die just yet, but our truant ways wanting to cheat this invisible virus could instead kill someone else that we love; our parents, siblings, children. Because we introduced it to them.
On 13th January, a Malaysian Health Coalition in the interest of medical caregivers urged the government to use the reintroduction of the movement control order (MCO) and the power it wields to deliver a long-term COVID-19 plan, consult with experts, and avoid another MCO at all cost.
The coalition, in a statement signed by 45 associations and 18 individuals from the health industry, demanded that the government uses its power responsibly and effectively to protect the people. The apolitical coalition consists of Malaysian health professional societies, health professionals and citizens dedicated to improving the health of Malaysians at large. It is imminent that they speak up. For they could already foretell the looming threat of a medical burn-out amongst the medical fraternity especially in the public sector who bears the most brunt.
Malaysia recorded over 100 death cases from October till December 2020, a significant rise from two to 5 cases in the earlier months of March till September. At the time this article is written, total deaths have reached 563 people at 0.4% of the total cases recorded.
And this harrowing rise in cases and deaths are putting a strain on health services. Bad international publicity and economics aside, these burgeoning figures cause logistical delays for health workers to transport patients from home to hospital, quarantine centres, and Low Risk Treatment Centres for COVID-19.
Imagine being a healthcare frontliner speeding up to an emergency road accident. Who would know that that victim is a virus carrier? Worse, while being resuscitated, he cannot utter anything and presents himself as a usual accident Joe, when he is not. And doctors, nurses, paramedics and the whole team of 10 huddle together to jolt him back to live, while he releasing COVID-19 to them.
And the frontliners in flood affected states, now in season, bear the additional burden to care for the victims. It makes it that much more difficult to add on ICU beds for critical patients during natural disasters such as this. It is a thankless job. Who is to tell on what day they would contract the disease or just fall flat exhausted. Some have.
Being a medical frontliner in these trying times is an enormous challenge to the physical and soul. They slog long hours, dreadfully sweating it out in plastics for hours in a day, be on their feet, musn’t make mistakes, and still think about their baby whose nursery has been ringing up for late pick-up because time is due. They are as human as you and I. So why must we become the catalytic agent for this virus by our careless wanton ways?
The Prime Minister said the sudden surge of patients will paralyse the capacity of our healthcare system at the blink of an eye. It can and will no longer sustain the high number of patients requiring treatment and hence death rates will rise.
He admits: “The situation today is indeed very alarming. Our healthcare system is under tremendous pressure now than at any other time since the start of the pandemic. As I have said before, unprecedented situations call for unprecedented measures.”
This pandemic curve has to be flattened and flattened fast at all cost. Hence the latest MCO directive for the good of the citizens. The chain has to stop. The new MCO was enforced for 14 days beginning 12.01am Wednesday 13th January till 26th January 2021.
So while at it, what are we good for? Socialising of course. We are all up there when it comes to partying, get-togethers, weddings, holidaying, birthdays, family outings, lunch and dinner hostings, driving around, in fact we see these faces in glee with kids in tow as we walk past them as if life has gotten back to normal.
Face it – we are all in an abnormal society today.
We think that if we fall sick, the same old trusted system will be there to prop us up and hearty again as usual. Just one of those occasions.
Think again. This might just be your last social outing. Because frontliners could decide your type deserves the least attention, and let you gasp for air on your own. After all, you deserve it. So think wise, think twice.
Bro.Y, Media Bureau HALUAN
14th January 2021