Previously sleeping rough, HKL’s Covid-19 frontliners find relief in free rooms, breakfast

A general view of Tune Hotels in Kuala Lumpur March 24, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A general view of Tune Hotels in Kuala Lumpur March 24, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — To have a place to shower, rest or freshen up is something so basic but is increasingly becoming a scarcity at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), as more healthcare staff are on duty in light of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

This situation however is about to be slightly remedied with ECM Libra Foundation and hotelier Ormond Group stepping in to jointly provide free accommodation for HKL healthcare staff for the next 30 days.

According to a medical officer met at the hotel, this is a great relief for some of them who are on call as space is limited at the hospital now, for those who want to take showers or rest.

“Space in the on-call rooms can’t accommodate so many of us, so some of us have to sleep in the car.

“I know some of them who are on duty, they shower just by using the bidet,” the medical officer who requested anonymity told Malay Mail.

Medical officers who are on call usually work up to 36 hours on a stretch.

With the availability of accommodation within the hospital’s vicinity, about 600 metres away, healthcare staff can now stay at the hotel to cut travelling time from home.

“This hotel is the nearest to HKL, so it’s very convenient for those who don’t live nearby, they don’t have to travel so far after a long day at the hospital.

“It will also solve accommodation problems, especially for those who are transferred here from outstation and could not find accommodation in time,” another staff said.

Speaking to another healthcare staff who is currently on duty at the Emergency Department, on top of work stress, they too are worried of contracting the virus.

“Workload is increasing definitely, hence stress is increasing too. While I didn’t expect to encounter a disease outbreak as such [when I took up medicine], I am prepared to carry out my responsibilities.

“The virus is highly transmissible. Deadly too. Worst case scenario, the virus could spread to loved ones back home,” the healthcare staff said, expressing concern of working as a frontliner.

One way this could be prevented is if all who come to the hospital are honest with revealing travel and close contact history.

“[Those who have been dishonest are] irresponsible. Covid-19 is a big issue now. At least inform us, to reduce chances of transmission to others,” the healthcare staff said.  

The staff also explained that, for a patient who has tested positive of the coronavirus, he or she will first be seen by an Emergency Department doctor.

“Then he or she will be warded. In the ward he will be seen by a medical or infectious disease doctor or specialist,” said the staff, who works at both stages of patient handling.  

Another healthcare staff said he was not as worried, as all frontliners are equipped with adequate medical knowledge on how to exercise proper sanitisation and prevention steps.

“We have been trained to follow very strict sanitisation steps and with our protective equipment, it helps reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus,” the staff said.

Giving back to the community

Tune Hotels also provides breakfast for HKL healthcare staff in the form of takeaway food packs. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Tune Hotels also provides breakfast for HKL healthcare staff in the form of takeaway food packs. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

As hotels are categorised under essential services, Tune Hotels PWTC is among those that are permitted to stay open.

But since late February, when the virus hit Malaysia hard, ECM Libra’s board of trustees chairman Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan said hotel sales dropped quite tremendously, not just for Tune Hotel, but all others as well.

“So we were thinking of how we can utilise our hotel facilities, and we thought why not help the healthcare workers who may need a place to stay, especially for those who live far away or were recently transferred to HKL in light of the virus outbreak.

“The movement control order (MCO) is much needed to contain the coronavirus, and while we may not be frontliners, this is a way we thought we could contribute to help Malaysia’s frontliners, during this time of crisis,” he said when contacted.

“I’m sure you saw news reports saying that some of the doctors can’t secure accommodation during this MCO period.

“So just want to help these healthcare workers do their jobs comfortably, without having to worry about not having a place to rest or shower in between shifts,” he added.  

The effort came together as a collaboration kickstarted by various public initiatives such as Projek Wawasan Rakyat, #KitaJagaKita, Yayasan Chow Kit, and #UndiRabu.

The foundation will also commit RM500,000 to The Edge’s Covid-19 Equipment Fund, to purchase ventilators from Australia. The fund, recently set up by The Edge Media Group, will also be used to buy medical equipment like protective suits, masks and ventilators.

According to hotel staff, breakfast, which is provided for HKL healthcare staff, will be served as takeaway food packs as the hotel’s restaurant is closed following the enforcement of MCO.

“This will also prevent crowding at the hotel lobby at the same time it adheres to the practice of social distancing,” the staff who requested anonymity said.

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