Belaga Medical Team Reach Deep Into Rural Areas For Vaccinations

PETALING JAYA: The remote villages in some parts of the country may make achieving herd immunity difficult, but no place is too remote for Dr Marcos Popey Jarit and his dedicated team of medical workers posted at the Belaga government clinic in Kapit, Sarawak.

Marcos, 28, has been the medical officer in charge of the clinic since January 2021.

He and his team roam the jungles, drive through muddy trails and brave river rapids to reach the Orang Ulu in the large district every month, for Covid-19 case detections, testing, education and vaccinations.

With the help of the national security council (MKN) and the district health office, his small team have been carrying out health talks and vaccine promotions there, having registered 28,246 people for vaccinations so far.

Aside from registrations, they also administer vaccinations for those living in areas that are far from the clinic.

For hours and even days, they travel on 4×4 trucks, speedboats or long boats, and even helicopters, all while decked out in heavy personal protective gear under the clinic’s multiple “Village Health Teams” (VHT) initiative.

The Belaga clinic outreach medical workers on a boat headed for one of the longhouse villages by the Rajang River.

“The river VHT covers longhouses scattered from Long Menjawah (up river) to Punan Sama (downriver) along the Rajang River, on speedboats, to provide medical services.”

The “flying doctor services” team consisting of a medical officer, a medical assistant and two nurses fly to villages such as Lusong Laku, Sang Anau, Long Unai, Batu Keling and Lusong Laku, villages that are otherwise inaccessible to outsiders.

“It would take about an hour on helicopter to reach each of these places, and it takes about six days for us to cover the whole area,” he said.

Meanwhile, the land VHT would travel on trucks to the two Penan settlements in Tegulang and Metalun.

Aside from geographical challenges, he said the medical teams would need the help of translators to communicate with the many different ethnic groups found in Belaga, as it is home to the Kenyah, Iban, Kayan, Punan, Penan, Kajang and Tanjung tribes.

Vaccinations at the Belaga clinic started on March 7 for Phase 1. The work is shared between four doctors, 15 nurses and seven medical assistants.

A Punan woman who travelled all the way to the Belaga clinic vaccination centre to get her Covid-19 vaccination.

Even though outreach teams have been mobilised to reach remote communities since then, Marcos hoped that there will be more volunteers and NGOs taking part in the vaccination programme.

“We need more volunteers to provide transportation for the staff or to bring locals to our static vaccination centre (at the Belaga clinic).

“Additional support is also needed, such as fuel for transportation, food and drinks for volunteers, as well as internet coverage for data collection in rural and remote places,” he said.

For months, Sarawak was one of the states with low Covid-19 daily cases – until March 2021.

Cases have been surging since then. Despite that, Marcos said medical frontliners in the state are not giving up the fight.

“The surge of Covid-19 cases in Sarawak, in general, has had so much impact on us, mentally and physically. However, being in the frontline, we are ready to continue fighting to save those in our care,” he said.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.