'Increasingly challenging' situation at Selangor quarantine centre due to growing admissions: Health department
KUALA LUMPUR: The situation at the COVID-19 quarantine centre in Serdang, Selangor, is increasingly challenging with the rise in admission of Category 3 patients, said the Selangor Health Department in response to complaints of poor conditions.
Category 3 patients are those who are symptomatic and are suffering from lung infections, according to the website of the Ministry of Health.
The Low-Risk COVID-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centre (PKRC) at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) only had 60 beds for Category 3 patients in early January, but is now housing 757 of them, the state health department said in a Facebook post on Sunday (May 16).
"We are planning to increase this capacity to 1,000 beds to support the healthcare system in Klang Valley in line with the recent increase of COVID-19 patients,” it said.
"The situation at the MAEPS PKRC has become increasingly challenging with the admission of more Category 3 patients."
The statement followed complaints of poor patient management and less-than-desirable conditions at the quarantine centre from a patient named Syed Mohamed Arif Syed Abdul Rahim, who described the experience as "horrible" on Twitter after being sent there on Sunday.
“The place was a converted parking spot and double-decker beds were placed there,” the economic officer said, adding that the registration at the quarantine centre took two hours.
He added that many of the patients had not had anything to eat since 8.30am, and citizens were not separated from foreigners while lining up to get their identification tags at night.
He also shared that the bed he was assigned to was already occupied and he was asked to find an empty bed. There were no bed sheet, blanket and pillow.
For showers, he had to use a toilet with a handheld bidet.
“All in all someone could develop mental health problems here because of the environment. There is no supervision, no proper ventilation and no air-conditioning,” he told CNA when contacted.
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Mr Syed Mohamed Arif also claimed in his Twitter thread that some of the patients were asymptomatic but started to develop symptoms like coughing after going through the long wait at a COVID-19 Assessment Center (CAC, a facility handling the assessment of patients) at Malawati Stadium in Shah Alam prior to being sent to the quarantine centre and experiencing the situation at PKRC.
He was moved to a different hall on Monday.
NO BED SHEETS, CLOGGED TOILETS
Selangor has been topping the chart of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, where a nationwide movement control order (MCO) has been reinstated from May 12 to Jun 7. On Monday, 1,650 out of the 4,446 new cases were recorded in Selangor, while the national tally stood at 474,556.
MAEPS PRKC operated from Apr 16 to Jul 15 last year, according to local media reports quoting Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. It was reactivated in December following a spike in cases among foreign workers.
Another patient, Ms Swarna Chokanathan, had similar experiences when she was sent there by an ambulance two days after she tested positive back in April.
She waited for five hours before she was assigned her bed. The hall she was placed at had no air-conditioning at first when she arrived and the beds did not have bed sheets, she added.
“When I asked them for bed sheets, they just said no more and asked me to sleep without sheets," she told CNA.
Besides that, the 27-year old said the hall was extremely cold at night and that the toilets were frequently clogged.
"The following day I was not given my breakfast despite requesting for it three times over. Then came lunch time I still did not get food until I made a fuss,” she said.
Ms Swarna, who spent seven days at the quarantine centre, however, shared that she was grateful for vegetarian meals being made available.
In its Sunday statement, the Selangor Health Department explained that Category 3 patients were stationed closer to the temporary Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to ensure more thorough monitoring, while patients of Category 1 and 2 who were stable were put in one of the halls.
The management would try its best to separate citizens and foreigners in the hall, it added.
“The MAEPS PKRC also welcomes the highlighting of the admission issue by a complainant and will re-evaluate and carry out the necessary improvement from time to time,” said the statement.
CAPACITY AT MAEPS CAN BE INCREASED TO 10,000: MINISTER
In a press conference on Monday, Health Minister Adham Baba said MAEPS currently has 4,000 beds for Category 1 and 2 patients and 1,000 beds for Category 3 patients.
“We can increase the capacity in MAEPS to up to 10,000 patients.
“We are also working on increasing the number of officials working in MAEPS,” he said, adding that for Category 4 and 5 patients would still be treated at public and private hospitals.
The minister was earlier quoted by local media that the ministry was ready to open more PKRC nationwide.
“Based on our experience from the second wave, we can give assurance that we will be able to immediately reactivate the quarantine centres that were closed before this,” he said.
He said that there were 12,926 beds in the 98 quarantine centres currently active nationwide and added that the majority of patients were from Selangor, with 3,467 patients in two quarantine centres.
Dr Adham added that the country has 136 quarantine centres with a capacity of 26,671 beds.