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‘If not us, then who?’: Malaysian medical doctors overcome concern of an infection in nation’s battle in opposition to COVID-19

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JOHOR BAHRU: Since Dr Sean Thum was deployed to the frontline of Malaysia’s battle in opposition to the COVID-19 pandemic, his relations have been maintaining a secure distance from him. 

Earlier than he was transferred to Permai Hospital on Mar 13, certainly one of Johor’s admission hospitals for suspected COVID-19 sufferers, the 28-year-old shared a room along with his brother and dined frequently along with his mother and father.

Nevertheless, his brother has now been “kicked out” of their bed room and he minimises contact along with his mom and father. 

“Really my relations are fairly terrified of getting contaminated. They don’t need to be close to me,” mentioned the junior physician. 

Dr Sean Thum
Dr Sean Thum in his full private protecting tools gear. (Picture supplied by Sean Thum) 

“My mother and father should not that younger, so the probability of them getting sicker than regular folks after getting COVID is sort of excessive,” he added. 

Dr Thum is amongst lots of of medical doctors throughout Malaysia who’re being tasked to check suspected COVID-19 circumstances and deal with those that have been contaminated. 

As of Friday (Mar 27), Malaysia reported more than 2,100 confirmed cases, with 26 deaths

Malaysia Well being director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah additionally confirmed that healthcare employees haven’t been spared. Nevertheless, he careworn on Thursday that not one of the 80 healthcare employees contracted the illness whereas dealing with COVID-19 sufferers.  

READ: Malaysia unveils RM250 billion financial stimulus package deal as COVID-19 circumstances surge

Well being Ministry had earlier mentioned that 47 of them have been linked to marriage ceremony ceremonies additionally attended by individuals of a spiritual occasion in Sri Petaling. Barely greater than half of the full confirmed circumstances within the nation are linked to this mosque gathering.  

Among the many optimistic circumstances are some healthcare suppliers from Teluk Intan Hospital in Perak, which has brought about disruption in each day operations on the facility. 

The fast unfold of the virus has prompted some nervousness amongst Malaysian medical doctors. 

Because the variety of COVID-19 circumstances throughout the nation continues to rise, medical doctors informed CNA they’re immediately cautious of each affected person strolling by means of the door with a cough or chilly. 

Some added that they’re nonetheless coming to phrases with being compelled to make fast, harrowing choices to save lots of not solely their sufferers’ lives and themselves, but in addition their households.


Dr Thum mentioned he’s “properly conscious of the chance he faces” as he and his fellow colleagues have been uncovered to individuals who contracted the virus. 

Regardless of that, he sees this as his calling to assist his nation at its time of want, identical to his favorite character, Chinese language legendary warrior Hua Mulan, who went to warfare rather than her aged father to struggle for her nation.

“The lads have been given the imperial order to struggle for his or her nation and Mulan stepped up. Equally, I see this as a chance to indicate how a lot I like my nation and the way a lot I need to serve the folks,” mentioned Dr Thum.  

Different medical doctors shared comparable optimism once they have been deployed to instantly deal with COVID-19 sufferers. 

Dr Calvin Koh, who’s presently primarily based in Sungai Buloh Hospital, Malaysia’s essential COVID-19 remedy centre, informed CNA that he had not seen his spouse for a number of days however the sacrifice could be worthwhile. 

Dr Calvin Koh
Dr Calvin Koh was deployed to Sungai Buloh Hospital on Mar 23, 2020 to deal with COVID-19 sufferers. (Picture: Fb/Koh Yee Quickly)

Like Dr Thum, Dr Koh was initially stationed at Sultanah Ismail Hospital in Johor Bahru. He was transferred to Selangor final week, leaving his spouse behind in Johor Bahru. 

The 29-year-old is certainly one of lots of of junior medical doctors throughout the nation mobilised to Sungai Buloh Hospital. 

READ: COVID-19 – Malaysia has rice shares for two.5 months as Vietnam curbs exports

Medical doctors like Dr Thum and Dr Koh, who’ve accomplished their housemanship and obtained full registration to practise, have been deployed to assist take a look at suspected COVID-19 sufferers and deal with them. 

Dr Koh informed CNA that though he didn’t volunteer for the project, he was “honoured” to do it and assist deal with his fellow Malaysians who’ve been contaminated with COVID-19. 

“Once I’m treating the sufferers, I’m fairly nervous as a result of the virus is contagious. However I attempt to give attention to my work and take the required precautions,” he mentioned. 

“We’re the subsequent technology of medical doctors on this nation and we have now to step up. If not us, then who?” he added. 


Dr Koh additionally shared how sporting private protecting tools (PPE) when working in shut proximity with COVID-19 sufferers is uncomfortable, however a obligatory protect to guard healthcare employees from getting contaminated. 

This consists of face masks, visors, gloves, robes, head covers and shoe covers, all of which shield in opposition to the transmission of virus by means of contact or droplets. 

Dr Koh described how he has facial creases from sporting his masks for lengthy intervals. He has to observe strict hand hygiene and is compelled to take baths with chlorhexidine gluconate earlier than and after his shifts to disinfect. 

“We regard PPE as sacrosanct because it might be the distinction between life and loss of life,” he mentioned. 

Dr Sean Thum drenched with sweat
Dr Sean Thum is drenched in his personal sweat inside his private protecting tools go well with. (Picture: Sean Thum) 

In the meantime, Dr Thum, whose shift sometimes lasts for eight to 9 hours, mentioned he is perhaps compelled to put on PPE for as much as four-and-a-half hours straight, particularly when he’s testing sufferers for COVID-19 by taking samples from their noses and mouths.

“It’s sizzling, and a little bit claustrophobic. It’s like your physique is caught in a private sauna and your sweat simply accumulates within the go well with,” he mentioned. 

Dr Sean Thum hands
Dr Sean Thum’s arms after an extended shift. (Picture: Sean Thum) 

Dr Thum additionally shared how the pores and skin on his arms could be shrivelled every time after being drenched in sweat for hours. 

“The character of PPE is that the whole lot needs to be tight sufficient and caught to your pores and skin. It’s not the perfect feeling on the planet, however I see it as a private sauna session whereas I perform my responsibility,” he added. 

READ: COVID-19 – Automobile Entry Allow for Malaysia-registered autos prolonged till Jun 30

Dr Wilson Tiang, who additionally treats COVID-19 sufferers in Sungai Buloh Hospital, supplied a glimpse into medical doctors’ nervousness with regard to PPE in a Fb put up. 

“These are operating by means of my head: is my PPE worn correctly? If I converse to a optimistic case for too lengthy, will I get contaminated? Is my masks leaking?” he wrote. 

He additionally recalled an event when his masks fell off whereas he was in a room with a affected person. He needed to maintain his breath instantly, wash his arms and depart the room rapidly to breathe once more.

“That was a terrifying expertise, and I used to be working for 16 hours straight. Fairly tiring,” he added. 


Many medical doctors throughout Malaysia have additionally been posting photographs of themselves, together with captions urging Malaysians to take a seat at house patiently and cling to the federal government’s motion management order, which has since been prolonged to Apr 14. 

Dr Thum mentioned that whereas medical doctors and different healthcare employees like him are working onerous to check and deal with sufferers, the folks “ought to keep house for the sake of us, for everybody’s security”. 

Ministry of Health sign
Malaysia’s Deputy Well being Minister I Noor Azmi Ghazali (entrance, centre) and healthcare suppliers posing with indicators urging Malaysians to stick to the motion management order. (Picture: Fb/Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia)

“We’re doing our half on the hospital — we hope the rakyat (folks) will do their half as properly,” he mentioned. 

He additionally urged Malaysians to practise social distancing, good hand hygiene and good cough etiquette. 

Dr Koh shared comparable sentiments. 

“I actually hope all Malaysians adjust to the federal government’s directions. If they’ve signs, please be certain they search pressing remedy,” Dr Koh mentioned. 

“We should all do our half,” he added. 

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