Saturday, August 15

In praise of Sarawak’s medical services

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NONE of us ever anticipates or hopes to be caught in a situation when we are faced with a medical emergency – be it self-inflicted, accidental, due to ageing or caused by an epidemic or pandemic like the current Covid-19.

Last Tuesday, I encountered one myself personally and had to go to the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) A&E admission. I was swiftly attended to and found myself in the ETD Bravo section of Kuching’s finest, and I daresay probably the best equipped and efficient medical facilities bar none! I can state that with some experience of a handful of other facilities, both private and public, in Sarawak as well as in Singapore.

I had my first hospital experience some 13 years ago in 2007 when I was also admitted to Kuching’s SGH. At that time, I had already encountered a good experience. I had even written a long letter of my appreciation, which was published in the local and national press: last time I checked that letter is still pinned up on top at the A&E notice-board prominently.

I have always wondered why there haven’t been more such letters, even though it’s a well-known fact that the SGH alone has saved hundreds, nay thousands upon thousands of lives.

I suppose that is the Malaysian way or life or culture – a lack of appreciation for what’s good and working and what’s excellent in our public services. We all take things for granted it seems. I can only see, hear, and read about complaints, grouses, and criticisms from the general public most of the time.

It’s time that we change this type of attitude, which hides behind a community with no appreciation for the good and the excellent facilities and treatment that they receive from our public services – especially the medical services! Don’t just complain about the long waiting times, the almost impossible parking problems, and the sometimes lack of compassion or personal attendance or aloofness of the staff, and the isolated faulty facilities in some areas.

For a service that caters to every citizen and member of the public at either a fraction of the cost of the lucratively and commercially inclined private facilities, or even for almost gratis for some senior citizens; we have a first rate international standard public medical service as good or even better than what you can get in a fully developed country.

Back to my experience this time around!

I was speedily admitted into ETD Bravo where a team of doctors and medical officers (MO) attended to me, each and every one full of professionalism and work courtesy, asking all the right questions and attending to all the possibilities. I was then referred to undergo a series of tests, examinations, and possible procedures. In the meantime, I was bedded in a holding facility while they looked for a bed on the ninth floor for Medical-Male; which would only become available 24 hours later. As always our medical facilities are definitely short of space but definitely not short of staff in the areas where I was attended to. Everything, to me at least, ran like clockwork and I couldn’t fault any of the proceedings even if I were to look for them!

For those who have never been inside of or been admitted to the SGH, let me give you a quick brief on the internal workings.

There will be a team of senior specialists and general practitioners together with junior doctors, MOs, and nurses attending to you upon first admission when they will make enquiries and look for answers, and record what your symptom or complaint is. If it’s a matter of life and death, you’ll be attended to urgently on the spot; otherwise there’ll be requests for further tests and examinations to be conducted; which is done expediently and efficiently with a minimal waiting time. From experience, the results from such tests are returned even faster than in the private sector!

Once they have diagnosed what’s wrong with you, treatment procedures will be arranged, organised, and undertaken – there’s no letting up on the effort and speed at this juncture. Within minutes, and depending on the complexity of the tests involved, you’ll be sent for more tests or the actual procedure itself.

Once you are officially admitted, you are wrist-tagged with name, identity, age, address, and contact. From here on you’ll be the subject of regular round-the-clock checks on your blood pressure (BP) and pulse, blood glucose levels, and be prescribed your medications. The MO or nurse looking after you will pay you regular bedside visits to update on what’s your next schedule; and you are free to ask any questions at any time.

Now comes the part where there is always some issue and that’s when you decide to go to the toilet facilities and shower. Without exception, and this has happened even at the best facility the Sarawak Heart Centre (SHC) – either the toilet bowls are without a proper cover; the flush system is broken; the taps are left dripping; the sinks are clogged and not working; there are no proper shower facilities and no toilet paper; but there’ll always be a water pipe available with a hose (either aluminium or plastic). This is the only area where private facilities are better!

When it comes to tests and procedures like X-rays, endoscopy, and colonoscopy, ECGs etc, here’s where the stay-in patients have advantage over the outpatients; they will jump the queue and be given first priority. These are speedily performed and results are immediate and on the spot. The equipment used is always the latest and the best. We are very lucky here as I believe we have some of the best equipment in Asia, if not the world!

When it comes time for treatment and results again, they are all expediently performed and completed, with schedules for follow ups and prescription of drugs and pharmaceuticals. The only slight hassle is when it’s time for checking out – which normally takes a while, my experience has been between three and four hours before one can actually walk out the door after the doctor attending to you says, “You can go home now!” But that’s the least of any of the complaints for me.

I must also now place on record the excellence in effort and work done by all our front-liners during this current period, which has lasted four months thus far, on the Covid-19 pandemic that is ongoing.

Right from the very top, the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chaired by Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Minister of Housing and Local Government Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, and all the front-liners working everywhere from the doctors, nurses, medical staff to the government departments and local councils – we must all take our hats off, and say a very big thank you for continuing to keep us all safe and healthy with their efficient policies, hard work, and constant vigilance to ensure that we are on top of this Covid-19 pandemic, and we are assured that although the journey will be long and tedious, we will be fully protected and be well taken of by all these fearless and hardworking virus fighters!

May God continue to guide them and bless them all!

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