Letter from a tired doctor

Frontliner pleads for help in fight against Covid-19

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Today’s post is open to all. It’s a letter from a certain “tired doctor”. The views expressed here are solely the author’s and do not reflect that of this publication.

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As the health director-general (Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah) said, our healthcare system is at the breaking point. Let me point it out, it is way past beyond that.

Any healthcare worker in this country knows that even before the Covid-19 pandemic started, our medical system was at breaking point with the budget cuts, lack of manpower, overcrowding, and also lack of update in facilities (Exhibit A: Multiple fires at the same hospital in Johor and yet nothing is told to the public).

The healthcare workers had a new synonym, frontliners for the battle in the ravages of this pandemic. But it is getting ridiculous at my hospital (Sungai Buloh Hospital) also known as the Covid Hospital of Malaysia.

Since all this started, we have been exposed to a highly infectious environment and deal with and unknown minuscule war creature. In Malaysia, 2% of infected cases are healthcare workers.

I’m a doctor working at this hospital and I can say that the basic amenities that are supposed to be given for us are not provided. Sometimes we do on-call shifts every other day in dealing and managing Covid patients and continue working after an on-call shift until 5pm.

I understand that it is our job and I am grateful for it. They are supposed to provide us with on-call rooms, provide us on-call food, provide us with a proper place to at least take a break and even rest before continuing facing this battle but all this have been taken away or told not available at the moment.

They said there’s been a hospital budget cut so they can’t provide on-call meals. Do you know how exhausted and tiring are our shifts are plus wearing PPE in the midst of all this? And yet, when we want to take a break there is no proper place to rest and worst of all, we can’t even have a proper meal.

We already brought these issues to a higher authority (even the hospital director) but I guess our issues fell on deaf ears. Some of the senior doctors even said that unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions and said we were pampered (well, during your time you did not have a pandemic to deal with!).

Most of the doctors are annoyed. Some of my colleagues fell into depression and started taking anti-depressants. Some of us haven’t even met or visited our own families or loved ones for months. We are tired, exhausted, annoyed and way past the breaking point.

Moreover, we miss our family dearly and is this how you treat us? With the new upsurge in cases, we expect the worst is yet to come.

We do not want any recognition like murals on walls or some light show on a bridge. We are asking to at least provide us with a comfortable environment to carry out our duties and to treat us like humans working long hours.

Please, would someone help us here?

Editors’s note: The fires refer to the many reports about outbreaks at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor. Health portal Code Blue has extensive coverage on these, including citing declassified documents on a major incident in 2016 that killed six patients.

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