A frontliner’s plea: Care for the safety of your loved ones and colleagues

I am one of the medical personnel currently serving as a frontliner and in contact with Covid-19 positive patients in East Malaysia.

With regards to recent developments, it is not surprising that a new wave of Covid-19 cases has hit our shores, especially in East Malaysia subsequent to the tabligh mass gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

I want to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to all healthcare, enforcement agencies and border control frontliners who have worked tirelessly to contain the spread of this disease.

I have contributed so little when compared to some who have sacrificed so much more. They have been quarantined and cried at being separated from their young children.

While letters of gratitude from the public are very encouraging and appreciated, there are many issues which beg our immediate attention and I write this letter with a plea to several segments.

Firstly, the general public. While a right to assembly and to religious practices is a fundamental right of every citizen, so is the right to health and safety.

Needless to say, it is fatal to underestimate Covid-19’s ability to spread rapidly and exponentially, even among asymptomatic individuals. Let us not politicise or racialise the situation further and see this firstly as a threat to public health and humanity.

Massive gatherings are precisely the best incubators for such diseases. Regardless of whether it is a church, mosque or temple, Covid-19 does not discriminate.

Have we not learnt from the Sri Petaling Mosque gathering of 14,500 people at the end of last month which is linked to many new Covid-19 cases?

Will we need fatalities for everyone to start taking this pandemic seriously? While it is your right to endanger your own safety, it is selfish and even criminal to endanger others around you with Covid-19.

I have seen Covid-19 patients who have returned home to their young children and wife. They have exposed them, their work colleagues and neighbours to unnecessary harm.

Please keep that in mind before deciding to attend the next massive gathering, whether religious, cultural or political in nature. If you do not value your own life, please value the lives of others.

While measures implemented at events, such as hand rubs and masks, should be lauded, it is not nearly as efficacious as avoiding such mass events totally.

Conventional clinical masks are not protective and there is a reason for medical personnel to don Tyvex suits, face shields and layers of suffocating protection prior to examining Covid-19 patients.

What is more disheartening, infuriating and disappointing is that our very own healthcare professionals and fraternity members are not taking things seriously when it comes to the spread of the disease.

There are cases of our very own healthcare staff, with years of experience, who very well know their travel risks and exposure to the disease at events.

Even worse, they show symptoms and yet conveniently fail to disclose or isolate themselves. They go about their daily business attending meetings and work.

This is most disappointing, violating the very Hippocratic oath they swore to adhere to by causing deliberate harm to others.

Let us not assume we are invincible to the disease or let our ego take the front seat.

This has resulted in the quarantine of valuable healthcare officials. This is totally unnecessary and further burdens the remaining frontline personnel.

I plead with all people not to do any harm. Worse, with the shortage of masks and hand sanitisers in the market, hospitals are faced with a sudden depletion and mysterious disappearance of in-hospital stocks.

This is extremely upsetting and disappointing. I hope no hospital staff are involved in this.

Lastly, there have been several cases of irresponsible or ignorant behaviour by contacts of patients who have bypassed screening protocols and exposed themselves to numerous other non-Covid-19 patients and medical personnel before informing medical doctors of their high risk.

Your ignorance is no excuse. Please follow protocols at proper Covid-19 triage and screening centres.

It will avoid unnecessary shutting down of emergency departments and quarantine of valuable healthcare personnel, all because of one’s ignorance and harmful negligence.

My team of colleagues, doctors, nurses and support staff all have family members, friends and loved ones we would love to return home to. Just like yourself. Just as much as you.

We too have weddings to attend and long-awaited travel plans, which have to be put off as the leave has been frozen. Some have sacrificed much more than others in this fight against this pandemic.

So to you, please do not for one second think that your actions or inaction are only limited to you.

Hope you consider my two sen worth from a doctor’s perspective.

‘A frontliner in East Malaysia’ is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.