Health D-G says hospital beds not yet at full capacity, but mulling home quarantine for Covid-19 positive cases

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya on December 9, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya on December 9, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today assured Malaysians that government hospitals are capable of treating Covid-19 cases even as new infections continue to top the 1,000-mark daily.

Dr Noor Hisham said government hospitals were not yet at maximum capacity.

He said that hospitals in Selangor — which continue to register the highest number of cases today — are only at 59 per cent of their bed capacity at the moment.

He added that occupancy in government hospitals nationwide is currently at 81 per cent and 58 per cent occupancy at the Covid-19 Quarantine and Low-risk Treatment Centres (PKRC). 

He added that it is 84 per cent occupancy at the National Leprosy Control Centre in Sungai Buloh, Selangor and 71 per cent at the Health Ministry training institute, also in Sungai Buloh.

However, he said the Health Ministry is considering letting people diagnosed with Covid-19 spend their quarantine at home instead.

He added that it would be subject to several factors, including the size of the house and the ability of officials to monitor the patient’s health progress.

“Our policy is still the same. We will quarantine positive patients in the PKRC or hospitals, but we are considering whether we can quarantine positive patients at home,” he said in a news conference broadcasted from Putrajaya this evening.

“If we want to execute this, there are several criteria to abide by. Firstly, we have to assess the suitability of the homes, rooms, bathrooms and others.

“Secondly, we also have to view the health assessment tools and how our healthcare workers can monitor the health of someone who is home. So we are looking at the possibility, but we are not changing our policy as yet, that is we quarantine those who are tested positive in hospitals or PKRC,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

He said the Health Ministry is also looking at the possibility of using work hostels as quarantine centres if cases increase further, such as had happened with the Teratai Cluster in Klang.

He cited Section 11(3c) of Act 342 (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988) whereby hostels were used to house Covid-19 patients who displayed mild symptoms and were categorised as stage one or stage two of the virus infection.

“So this is one possibility which we can use to reduce the congestion in MAEPS for example,” he said, referring to the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang, which is being used as a PKRC.

Dr Noor Hisham had yesterday advised those who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic to be isolated at home and stay in touch with their district health offices (PKD) as they may not be taken to government hospitals immediately.

He was responding to a complaint by a business owner who questioned the Health Ministry’s contact tracing processes via the MySejahtera app after three of her employees tested positive for Covid-19 but were not immediately contacted or taken to government hospitals.

Dr Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry is currently dealing with a very high number of cases and logistics issues when it comes to ferrying patients to hospitals.

“The delay is because of an increase in patients who are detected to be positive,” he explained in today’s briefing.

“The capacity is still there to take in patients, but we are looking at the logistics to transfer them from their homes to hospitals. So there is some delay there and we advise those who are waiting to be patient and also isolate themselves from their family members, and also stay in contact with the PKD. Always be in contact with the PKD to get the latest information,” he added.

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