This opinion piece appeared on New Straits Times.
I enjoy reading the news every morning, but lately, that familiar habit comes accompanied by dread over the ebb and flow of Covid-19 cases.
When the pandemic first hit our shores last year, we endured the strict but decisive Movement Control Order (MCO) as a nation to flatten the curve. It paid off – cases hovered at manageable low double digits and life resumed some semblance of normalcy.
Then October came. Numbers doubled month on month and instead of the fresh new start we hoped for in 2021, we find ourselves now facing a streak of nearer or over 3,000 new cases every day – nearly ten times what we were up against in mid-2020. Thus far, much of the burden of tackling the Covid-19 response has fallen on the shoulders of our primary health services such as hospitals.
Other health services like Homage have been doing what we can, but our ability to help is limited due to restrictions such as Covid-19 tests only being primarily available at medical centres. In December last year, we launched door-to-door Covid-19 swab tests when it was clear that the situation was worsening and getting too close for comfort.
But it is not enough, and it is time we all truly joined forces to help. We are familiar with the various symptoms to look out for that indicate a possible Covid-19 case. However, we also know that most people are asymptomatic, which is what makes Covid-19 so deadly.
At the rate we are going, it is likely that many Malaysians now might be in the category of having close contact with a person linked to a positive patient.
While people in this category are asked to wait for the results of the tests of the people who had contact with that person that had close contact with the patient, many will be worried and seek testing as well, creating more strain on the system and potentially increasing the risk of infection.
The situation is especially bad in Selangor. Hospitals are filled to capacity with over 90 percent of bed occupancy related to Covid-19 cases. Confirmed cases that do not display serious symptoms are being turned away and asked to self-quarantine. Turnaround times for test results are growing longer as medical staff struggle to cope with the influx of increased testing.
Instead of adding further stress to the system, let us alleviate the pressure. We can shift the burden of testing away from the primary medical centres and allow them to focus on the people that most need their help.
With our experience in performing swab tests for people at home, we are well-placed to serve individuals, unless their condition is critical. We can act as the first line of defense by filtering out those who must self-quarantine, those who are Persons Under Investigation (PUI) and those that need immediate attention.
Our Care Professionals are already observing strict SOPs, wear full PPE protective gear and are segregated to prevent cross-infection. This way, we do not pose an additional risk to a negative patient. We also reduce the numbers of potentially positive cases visiting medical centres, thus lowering the chances of hospital staff and patients risking exposure.
With hospitals now able to concentrate on critical cases instead of sifting through all potential patients, they can provide the best possible care for those who need it while giving their frontliners room to breathe.
It is difficult for people to understand how serious the numbers are until they see what 3,000 or 4,000 new cases every day actually means. It means that there are no more beds in the hospitals for patients.
It means even longer hours and intense pressure on exhausted medical heroes. It means more MCOs, more SOP, more fear, more fatigue and more uncertainty. Ultimately, it means that we need to change the way we are doing things.
The nation needs our help. Regardless of whether we operate in the public or private sectors, we all have a part to play as we do our best to help all Malaysians stay safe and healthy.
We at Homage are eager to answer the call and I am sure there are many other services out there who would do the same. We are here for you. Let us help you. We can get through this together. After all, kita jaga kita.