KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s public healthcare system is equipped to deal with possible cases of a coronavirus spreading across China and beyond, said Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye on Wednesday (Jan 22).
The minister was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times that 26 government and specialist hospitals had been identified to handle, monitor and treat coronavirus-related cases.
“They include all the state hospitals and major specialist hospitals with an infectious disease unit. Every state will have at least one hospital that can provide isolation and treatment to patients,” he said.
He said it would be preferable for patients to be treated in public hospitals, unless the private hospitals have facilities to isolate patients and ensure that protective measures have been put in place for the staff.
“I think most private hospitals are not equipped with that,” he noted.
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In order for hospitals to handle coronavirus-related cases, they will need to meet certain requirements under the health ministry’s standard procedures on potential outbreak of infectious diseases, the minister said.
“First, the patients need to be isolated. Second, the healthcare providers should have adequate protection with special protective gear to keep them from being infected.
“And, finally, the facilities should have the capacity to perform contact tracing and monitoring,” the New Straits Times report quoted him as saying.
A coronavirus has spread across China and beyond, with 17 people killed and more than 500 infected in an outbreak that started in Wuhan - a central city of 11 million people described by state media as "the main battlefield" against the disease.
There are also confirmed cases in Japan, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.
Wuhan has been placed under effective quarantine, with outward flights and trains suspended, subways halted and large public events cancelled as doctors in full-body protective suits treat patients.
The decision came as hundreds of millions of people are travelling across China and to international destinations for the Chinese New Year holiday, which starts on Friday.
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In the meantime, Dr Lee said that a circular has been issued to government and private healthcare facilities to boost the monitoring of respiratory conditions.
Medical facilities have also been asked to immediately report cases of coronavirus, he added.
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