Covid-19: Review SOPs to enable seamless screening of foreign workers, says Malaysian Medical Association

A foreign construction worker is screened for Covid-19 at a clinic in Pudu, May 15, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
A foreign construction worker is screened for Covid-19 at a clinic in Pudu, May 15, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 — The compulsory Covid-19 screening of foreign workers is a good move by the government, but issues currently faced by general practitioners (GPs) in the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the Rapid Test Kit (RTK) antigen swab testing need to be ironed out by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to ensure more large-scale testings can be carried out smoothly.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Prof Datuk Dr M Subramaniam said the current SOP, where Covid-19 positive samples need to be sent to admitting hospitals, also caused delays and an increase in red tape.

“As the RTK antigen-tested positive patient will eventually need to undergo an RT-PCR swab test at the admission hospital, we feel it is an unnecessary process to send the samples,” he said in a statement.

On November 20, Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government had agreed for health screenings to be made compulsory for all foreign workers in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Sabah, the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan using the RTK Antigen method.

Subramanian also said that the current SOP, where a patient confirmed to be Covid-19 positive is isolated at the clinic and made to wait for pick up by an ambulance or the District Health Office (PKD) officers, was not practical.

This is because there had been cases where patients were made to wait for hours for transportation to arrive due to the heavy workload and, as such, proper transport arrangements for Covid-19 positive patients need to be put in place.

He added that the issue of widespread commercialisation of Covid-19 screening must also be given a more serious view by the government, with the MMA having recently raised its concerns about organisations not registered with the health authorities providing Covid-19 swab tests.

He said there were many middlemen and non-healthcare related agents involved in the screening as well as swab tests being conducted by facilities that were not self-declared with the MOH.

“This must be performed by trained healthcare professionals or patients can face the risk of injuries, health issues and even a false negative result if the swab tests are performed incorrectly,” he said. — Bernama

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