KUCHING (Aug 30): Improvements are urgently needed in the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee’s (SDMC) handling of Covid-19 patients who are asymptomatic (Category 1) and those with mild symptoms (Category 2), said Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.
Dr Yii asserted that the patients’ close contacts also need to be monitored so as to eliminate confusion and prevent possible flouting of the home quarantine standard operating procedures (SOP), which can lead to an increase in community transmissions in Sarawak.
This includes improvement of the Covid-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) as well as to devise better procedural requirements and disciplines to better manage, and monitor patients and close contacts that are undergoing home quarantine, he added.
“Currently, with the surge of cases in Sarawak due to the Delta variant and lack of quarantine centres especially in Kuching, more and more are required to undergo home quarantine.
“However, the existing advisory, restrictions, and monitoring for home quarantine are inadequate and ineffective and may give rise to a possible increase in community transmissions.
“We know that isolation itself is not sufficient. The health status of all close contacts should be established early or there can be risk of infections spreading among family members in the household and into the community if they breach the quarantine. Screening close contacts will also improve management of early symptoms of Covid-19,” he said in a statement today.
Dr Yii proposed five main suggestions to improve this – and one of the proposals was to increase the numbers of CAC in outbreak areas (Red Zones) and integrate technology to implement virtual assessment especially for those in Categories 1 and 2.
This will ensure early monitoring of all positive cases, decongest the physical CACs, minimise physical contact and enable these CACs to focus on symptomatic and sicker patients.
“Majority of patients have minimal or no symptoms, but a proportion will progress to the severe stage, usually in the second week of the illness. But with better monitoring through a virtual CAC, we will be able to detect them early before they progress to such a stage where they can no longer be treated.
“Currently, the system used in Sarawak is patients are asked to fill up a digitised Google forms or ‘home assessment tool to monitor symptoms daily’. However, there is very little monitoring, and many are not given proper explanations on their conditions and what to do next.
“In order to help relieve the already overstretched workload of medical professionals from the Ministry of Health (MoH), they must consider roping in private GPs (general practitioners) to test and monitor patients and close contacts virtually if it is faced with a shortage in manpower.
“With better monitoring and more manpower, we can reduce the risk of patients not getting the medical attention they need if their symptoms get worst as well as reduce the possible Brought in Dead (BID),” he added.
Dr Yii also proposed for the release of a clear and comprehensive ‘Home Quarantine Advisory’ – and that it has to be clearly communicated to all as efforts must be increased to educate the public on the home quarantine SOP and even publishing them on all available media, and all languages to ensure it is understood by all Malaysians.
His third proposal was to increase manpower at the helpline and call-centres at the CAC, as he said that the current hotline is very hard to reach and the public had tried many times calling the hotline for hours without getting an answer.
“This is where GPs play an important role to help answer medical questions if they have any. The state government can also mobilise more officers from other ministries to help in the call-centre to answer non-medical questions as certain inquiries by those under home quarantine are not medical related but more of the necessary SOP that they need to follow,” he said.
For Dr Yii’s fourth proposal, he said the state government must provide care kits to all those who must undergo home quarantine, which include face masks, a thermometer, an oximeter, and saliva test kits.
He said the oximeter and thermometer are important to monitor the symptoms and they can also report their symptoms better to those monitoring them.
He added that the government must also subsidise the RTK Antigent Self-test Kits to make it affordable and accessible for all as part of the new normal that we need to be prepared for.
He also proposed to the government to have a better enforcement and surveillance of those placed under home quarantine, by exploring the usage of technology for surveillance and also enforcement for those who are under quarantine.
This is done so that they do not break their quarantine order, he added.
“Constant monitoring and random spot-checks must be conducted by all agencies to make sure they do not go out and expose others,” he said.