Let’s help the real Avengers – our doctors and nurses

I’m very saddened to learn that 15 healthcare workers have been infected by the Covid-19 virus and that one of them is in the intensive care unit. I pray that all of them recover quickly.

Our doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are our heroes right now. Many of them put their lives at risk so that you and I can be safe from the Covid-19 disease that is devastating the world.

I salute the excellent work done by the staff of all hospitals handling Covid-19 cases, especially the staff of the Sungai Buloh hospital, which is the main Covid-19 designated centre.

If we, the public, help them do their work, life can become normal again.

I have been hearing from doctors how difficult some patients can be and how risky their work is. Let me relate a few incidents.

Some people are going to government hospitals to get tested for the Covid-19 virus even though they don’t have the symptoms and even though they did not come into contact with any known or suspected case. They go to government hospitals because testing is free, whereas they will have to pay RM800 or more to get it done at a private hospital.

Such people are not only wasting the precious time of healthcare staff but also government resources and money, which ultimately comes from the taxpayer. What they are doing can only be described as an outrageously selfish act.

Each test kit costs about RM600 and one kit can only be used on one patient. That is not the only cost, the doctor has to don protective clothes known as personal protective equipment (PPE) and that costs more than RM100. Once used, it cannot be used again.

Each time the doctor conducts a test, he or she has to put on the three-layered PPE, including two sets of gloves. Can you imagine how hot it is inside? They are literally bathing in sweat by the time they finish.

Taking off the PPE is no simple matter either: they have to follow established steps so that they don’t get infected in the process. And then they have to go for a thorough shower.

I was told of several cases of people not informing the medical staff that they had been exposed to a patient under investigation (PUI) or that they had been to an event where some people had caught the virus. This is the height of irresponsibility.

A pregnant woman went to the gynaecology department of a government hospital for a check-up. After the doctors and nurses had dealt with her, she revealed that her husband had been to the tabligh convention where thousands of people could have been infected. Most of the cases being treated currently are linked to that convention.

Immediately, the medical staff did a test on her and because she had not informed them earlier, all the staff who had come into contact with her had to be quarantined. Fortunately, her test result was negative, as was that of her husband.

But because the hospital did not want to take any chance, before her test results came, they disinfected the entire place, what they call “terminal cleaning”, where every part is cleaned again, and again. The place cannot be used for about 72 hours to enable the cleaning process to be completed.

Another case involves a man who had come to be tested for the virus and then quickly left only to return a few days later to another department breathless and with high fever. He didn’t say he had earlier been tested for the virus, and the doctor and staff at this department were not wearing PPEs. Only when the doctor checked his record did they realise the man was a PUI.

The doctor and staff had to be quarantined and the whole area given a “terminal cleaning”.

People must realise that such actions deprive other patients of the services of both the facility and the doctors and nursing staff (who have to be quarantined until at least the results are known).

We need to understand that doctors and other medical staff are working round-the-clock to test and treat those suspected of having the disease or are known to have the Covid-19 virus. We have always heard that doctors in government hospitals are overworked; now they are under even greater stress.

One doctor, who is part of the Covid-19 team, told me how scared she was when she first handled a patient suspected of having the virus. “I’d never been so scared in my life before,” she confessed. Now, even though she is used to it, she knows that each time she handles a patient she puts her life at risk. But that doesn’t stop her – because it is her duty as a doctor.

These are the real heroes. These doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are our very own Avengers. The doctor who dons the PPE and goes to face the invisible enemy is our very own Spiderman, our very own Iron Man, our very own Wonder Woman.

Let’s not make life any harder for them. Let’s help them by staying at home, by going out only for essential work, and by practicing social distancing so that life can get back to normal sooner than later.

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