PETALING JAYA: Doctors will be forced to make the tough call over which patient should be given a bed in the intensive care unit (ICU) due to the strapped healthcare system caused by the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, warns the Health Ministry.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said if active Covid-19 cases exceed the capacity of the healthcare facilities in the country, doctors will have to prioritise ICU beds for patients with high recovery potential.
“The Health Ministry has warned of possible scenarios in which doctors would have to make the difficult choice to prioritise ICU beds for patients with a high recovery potential over patients with low recovery potential (poor prognosis).
“This is a difficult situation that we are all facing and the Health Ministry would like to call on all parties to work together, ” he said on Sunday (May 30) in a joint press conference with Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Dr Noor Hisham said the number of available beds in the ICU, Covid-19 hospitals, as well as quarantine and treatment centres, were declining due to the rising number of cases.
The usage of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients was now at 104% capacity, with 1,113 beds in use, while Covid-19 hospital beds have reached 85% capacity, with 10,190 patients currently hospitalised.
As for Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centres, beds were now at 65% capacity, with 27,183 beds in use while ventilators were at 60%, with 2,138 total being used, of which 39% were for Covid-19 patients.
He added that the Health Ministry has taken the initiative to increase the number of beds in Covid-19 hospitals and Covid-19 hybrid hospitals by repurposing certain spaces in the hospitals into ICU units.
“The Kepala Batas Hospital Field ICU, as well as the proposed temporary takeover of the UKM Children’s Hospital, are also among the steps we are taking to increase ICU capacity.
“We are also collaborating with NGOs that are offering medical assistance to open more ICUs in areas that need them, ” he said, adding that the lack of manpower is posing a major challenge to the ministry.
On another matter, Dr Noor Hisham also said the Health Ministry has increased the quarantine period for travellers arriving from overseas.
The quarantine period for five high-risk countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh has been extended to 21 days.