From Simon, a patient who spent a week at MAEPS.
I am a senior citizen who tested positive on April 15. Two days later, I was taken to MAEPS (Malaysia Agro Exposition Park, Serdang) to undergo quarantine. This is a diary I wrote for each day in quarantine.
The aircon is too cold and I am freezing. People walk up and down the aisle beside my bed and the lights are only turned off at 2am. I could not sleep the whole night. There is no way to complain and I struggle till the next morning with a stuffy nose and droopy eyes.
This kind of quarantine facility will definitely aggravate my condition. A senior citizen like me is weak in all-round immunity.
The food is, as expected, cold and for spicy palates. Toilet paper is not supplied, hot water is not available. I feel very much in hell and doubtful that I can persist until my discharge on Saturday, April 24.
I tried to ask for a transfer to Sungai Buloh Hospital but was rejected. The reason being I do not have serious problems like breathing difficulty etc. I appreciate very much that the government is diligent in fighting the virus and helping infected people but facilities at this quarantine centre are undoubtedly inadequate.
There is no information on websites as to the things we must bring, and what quantity will be needed during the quarantine period. Hopefully, I can walk out of here alive next Saturday. I will definitely publicise this to those unfortunate infected patients heading here for quarantine “holiday”, especially the elderly folk, to be more well prepared.
Symptoms are diminishing. Found out from the nurses that if one asks for Panadol or cough mixture, the doctor in charge might increase the quarantine period because of changes in the severity of symptoms. On the other hand, if improvements are obvious, he may shorten it and approve an early discharge.
Last night, the lights were turned off at 2am. Activities from the nurses attending to high-risk patients continued until midnight. Names of patients were called out over the PA system. The strong air-con blowers again tormented my weak body and disturbed my sleep. Quarantine in this kind of environment really sucks.
There are eight air-con blowers on the ceiling of this hall and seven are operational now, at 10am.
Patients have turned a corner at one of the exits into a smokers’ corner. I had to hide there at times to fend off the cold temporarily and to get some sunlight. Imagine a Covid-19 quarantine centre tacitly allowing smoking although at a secluded area. It’s reflective of mismanagement. It might cause more harm than helping to cure patients speedily.
At midnight, the chief nurse was still busy calling patients for checkups through the PA system. Lights off and the hullabaloo ended at 1am.
It’s 8am. I met some guys who are waiting to be discharged. They are all mild-symptom patients like me. All of them told me that they were not given even one Panadol or had their temperatures checked and whatnot during the entire period. Just a certification letter of good health and then they’re discharged as the quarantine period for 10 days from the day they were swabbed had been fulfilled. What a farce!
All of them have to produce the discharge letter to the officer at the entrance and upon verification, the wristband will be cut and off you go. However, there is no shuttle bus service; all patients have to walk about 100 metres out to the police checkpoint and arrange their own transport.
Today, I would like to talk about the overall facilities here.
This hall has a size of about 40,000 square feet, with 940 beds. It has six toilet areas with five compartments each, meaning only 30 persons can do their thing at any one time.
There are three coffee vending machines, one packet-food dispensing machine, one cold drinks vending machine. All are in good working condition. There are six dispensing machines for hot and cold water but only three are working.
Currently, this hall is 80% occupied with roughly about 700-plus patients. One can imagine how busy the toilets here are and the long waiting time.
The beds are double-deckers and arranged in rows of between 1.5 metres apart. However, the space between beds is only 1 metre. There is an aisle about 2.5 metres wide dividing the hall into two. The beds are literally next to each other. Can such sleeping arrangements give comfort to patients recuperating from Covid-19? Who cares. We are here to be quarantined for 10 to 14 days so that we will not spread it to others. And the virus in our body will be dead and become non-infectious, according to WHO studies. No second swab test is required in the next 90 days.
Hate to write about this stupid place any more but I just can’t avoid putting it down for future reference.
Daily standard procedures are not adhered to, but erratically changed according to the whims and fancies of the medical personnel in charge.
Last night, the handover of discharge letters to those leaving started only at midnight. It lasted almost an hour. Patients were forced to wake up and queue to collect it. Previously, the letters were handed to them individually at 8pm.
Lights-off is between 1am and 2am depending on staff workload. PA system still blasting away, calling out names of patients endlessly for various checkups until 1am.
Patients are seen gathering around, talking, cracking jokes and laughing, eating and exchanging woes and sweet memories. It’s like a big party even after lights off. An old man like me can hardly get some sleep. A quarantine centre is meant to restrain movements and help patients recover sooner rather than to aggravate their sickness by imposing unnecessary burdens, both bodily and spiritually.
Today is my discharge date. Waited for the clearance letter until midnight.
1.30am now, waiting for my wristband to be cut and I will be a free man.
I have gone through the ordeal for the past eight days, quarantined here. The place is not fully equipped with facilities and not professionally managed. No toilet paper, no hot water for showers, toilets always fully occupied, lousy meals and in short supply, strong aircon blowers and what have you.
The virus is not difficult to fight but the living conditions are hard to endure.
I was not given any medicine, body temperature readings not taken or BP (blood pressure) measured at all throughout my stay. And just like that, after eight days of quarantine, I am considered recovered.
It was not easy for an old man like me but luckily I manage to walk out of here alive. I will never forget this experience. I hope the authorities will rectify the inadequacies and make the centre a better place for quarantined patients. The fight against Covid-19 still has a long way to go.
“One hell of an experience” is the right way to describe my ordeal but I end my journey here on a happy note.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.