Test all patients, MoH urged

Dr Subramaniam Muniandy

KUCHING: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has once again urged the Ministry of Health (MoH) to revert to its earlier policy of testing all close contacts instead of only testing symptomatic close contacts.

Its president Professor Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said the improvement is urgently needed in the ministry’s handling of asymptomatic and mild cases of Covid-19 and their close contacts.

This, he said, is to eliminate confusion and prevent possible flouting of the home quarantine standard operating procedures (SOPs) which can lead to an increase in community transmissions.

“In its preventive measures, only isolating them will not be sufficient. The health status of all close contacts should be established early or there can be risk of infections spreading among family members in the household and into the community if they breach the quarantine.

“Screening close contacts will also improve management of early symptoms of Covid-19,” he said in a statement today.

MMA had earlier proposed that the government consider roping in the private general practitioners (GPs) to test close contacts if it is faced with a shortage of manpower.

He also said more awareness and clarity are also needed on the SOPs for home quarantine as many are still unclear.

“Efforts must be increased to educate the public on the home quarantine SOPs and the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) by frequently publishing it on all available media including outdoor media especially in areas with high populations in simple Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil to ensure it is understood by all Malaysians,” he said.

Subramaniam further pointed out that there have been a number of reports in the media on confirmed Covid-19 cases who either waited for days for a call from the District Health Offices (PKD) or had difficulty contacting them.

“Although the SOPs for home quarantine can be accessed via MySejahtera app and via the MoH’s official website, some of the confirmed positive cases were not aware and needed to speak to someone from the ministry.

“We should expect that those who had just been diagnosed with Covid-19 might be overcome with anxiety and will try desperately to contact the department in charge for assistance and guidance on the next steps to be taken.

“It must also be assumed that there will be elderly citizens who would use the phone to call therefore every call should be treated with urgency,” he stressed.

It was reported in the media recently that when the husband of an executive editor with New Straits Times was confirmed Covid-19 positive, she and her children and aunt (identified as close contacts) were only called in for testing two days after their quarantine had ended hence they were without the pink bracelets for 10 days.

Last month, in another case, Yong, 49, and her five family members in Petaling Jaya, Selangor who tested positive at a private laboratory’s drive through Covid-19 screening service, had waited at home for three days for a phone call from MoH.

“Her parents in law were in the high risk group of complications and had developed more severe symptoms. The call did not come and neither was there an ambulance sent to the home.

“Her calls to the Sungai Buloh hospital were also not picked up. Worried over her in-laws worsening symptoms, she paid RM2,000 to hire two private ambulances to send them to a hospital,” Subramaniam said.

An entrepreneur faced similar issues upon testing positive last month. He decided to recover at home as there was no call from PKD.

“His calls to the Covid-19 hotline set up by the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) went unanswered while his messages to their dedicated WhatsApp number were also met with no response.”