Despite the tiredness that can be felt in fighting the pandemic, no one is losing hope
A year into the Covid-19 pandemic and the second Movement Control Order (MCO), Malaysians have grown accustomed to the new normal of living our lives.
However, the Malaysian public healthcare system has continued to prevail despite the challenges.
“The Malaysian public healthcare system has performed admirably since the beginning of the pandemic, despite challenges and the evolving situation.
“What is a hospital but the greater sum of its dedicated staff, patients and the community that supports them,” said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Pro-Vice Chancellor (Kuala Lumpur Campus) Prof Datuk Dr Hanafiah Harunarashid. He was previously Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz (HCTM) Director.
“Spirits are still high – yes, the tiredness can be felt but no one is losing hope. After a very long protracted battle, perhaps it is time for a little respite for them,” he told The Health.
“What we ask from the private sector is to give a helping hand – we are not abandoning the cause nor the leadership.
“The threshold to activate additional capacity was not determined by desperateness, but rather a calculated strategic move to ensure continued resilience of the system so that we will prevail.
He said that patients who need intensive care can still get into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) without question.
“When it starts to look a bit full, we try to make adjustments to ensure continued delivery of high-quality treatment. There are unfortunately a few deaths, but many more survived thus far.”
Dr Hanafiah said there are costs to add capacity nonetheless – and this remain the crux of the argument and source of the reluctance perhaps.
“This is a separate issue altogether – complex as it is, but surely can be resolved with negotiation and consultation in the spirit of collaboration and unity towards a common cause.”
The Malaysian public healthcare system has performed admirably since the beginning of the pandemic, despite challenges and the evolving situation says Dr Hanafiah.
Spirits are still high – yes, the tiredness can be felt but no one is losing hope. After a very long protracted battle, perhaps it is time for a little respite for them.
— Dr Hanafiah Harunarashid
Key issues in 2021
Commenting on the national narrative on healthcare post 2020, he said it would likely to feature the following:
• Would healthcare in Malaysia turn digital? What does digital healthcare mean?
• Preparedness for future pandemics
• Healthcare as a sovereign security issue
• The rise of technological nationalism
He said the Covid-19 pandemic response has propelled the Ministry of Health (MoH) into public consciousness, and hopefully public healthcare will remain in the limelight for years to come.
The obvious trend would be the appetite for data by the public with every announcement or report. This demand for data would need the necessary talent, resources and above all good governance to ensure data protection, privacy, accuracy and transparency.
“The coming vaccination spree will bring new discourse to the fore about safety, equality and cost – with vaccines becoming the analogy for anything to do with healthcare,” he said.
So how safe are the Covid-19 vaccines and to what extent would the vaccination programme help alleviate the situation?
Dr Hanafiah said the choice to receive any medication or treatment is an individual one. For this to be possible, the regulatory system that ensures the safety of drugs, which includes vaccines must be adequately resourced, empowered and have the experience to carry out the due diligence necessary.
“I believe what we have in our country is at par with the rest of the developed world – the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has a good track record and is manned by very capable people, supported by a very credible talent pool of experienced physicians, scientists and regulatory experts.”
He said that when the various types of Covid-19 vaccines were made available to the Malaysian public, he was confident the necessary due diligence would have been carried out to ensure the risks of treatment are managed well and the efficacy of the vaccines have been affirmed by an independent panel of experts.
“The vaccination programme will hopefully reduce the risk of fatality, thus adds the much important layer of protection to frontliners,” he said adding that with the expected lessening of the severity of disease, it provided the much needed widening of the capacity margin that the healthcare system needs.
Nonetheless, existing measures to prevent infection such as wearing masks, regular hand sanitation and physical distancing remain important. Not everyone can be vaccinated – the at-risk populations must still be protected.
Dr Hanafiah credited fellow Malaysians in the fight against the pandemic.
He said the Malaysian public can be trusted to heed the call to protect themselves and their families from Covid-19. They expect leadership, and the resolve to do what is necessary under dire circumstances.
“Sometimes, the messaging may not necessarily reach its intended outcome. We know and trust the rakyat are reasonable folks, with the patience to persevere.
“We know they listen, and perhaps we should do a lot more to listen back as well.
“We understand frontline staff can get tired and be on the brink of burnout. We learned this is a real risk. They need to be cared for – and this needs the support of all.”
He added that not all frontliners are in the front lines; there are also people working in the shadows of public attention – these people also need to be looked after properly.
“The real lesson we can learn is that we as country, as one nation, have the necessary elements to overcome the twin challenges of this unprecedented global pandemic and economic crisis.
“We can, and god willing we will see this through. Malaysia Boleh!” — The Health