Hit by Covid-19 outbreak among its healthcare workers, Sungai Buloh Hospital has warned its staff disciplinary action could be taken against them if they are found to have been infected due to non-compliance with standard operating procedures, multiple sources told Malaysiakini.
This came as the Health Ministry's main medical facility for Covid-19 recorded a spike in the number of cases among its staff members in recent weeks.
According to sources in the health sector including within the hospital, the warning was issued by hospital director Dr Kuldip Kaur Prem Singh.
It is learnt that staff were told they could face disciplinary action if they test positive for Covid-19.
However, another source clarified that action would only be taken if the infected staff member was found to have neglected to wear a face mask while on duty.
A third source corroborated this to Malaysiakini, saying that it came after several other steps had been taken to remind staff.
They include having a team that goes around the hospital to monitor standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance and advise those who let their guard down.
"But these are humans we are talking about. Some of them would toe the line when they are being monitored... They would put on their mask when told to do so, but when they are not being seen, they will do it again (the offence)," said the medical services staff.
As of Monday, the ministry confirmed that 80 healthcare workers at Sungai Buloh Hospital have tested positive. Malaysiakini learned that the number had since increased.
The Health Ministry did not provide further details of the outbreak in the nation’s foremost Covid-19 hospital, but Malaysiakini understands among those infected include intensive care unit nurses and specialists.
This has caused staff shortage in the intensive care unit as colleagues who had close contact are forced to go under quarantine, a source said.
The 620-bed Sungai Buloh Hospital only treats Covid-19 patients.
The outbreak among medical staff comes as the hospital facing a surge in daily admissions, with Klang Valley continuing to record a high number of positive Covid-19 cases.
Malaysiakini learned that the number of beds at the hospital is being filled fast. This includes its intensive care unit, which sources said is being expanded to its maximum capacity of 60 beds.
'We need to be strict'
Meanwhile, a Sungai Buloh Hospital management staff member confirmed with Malaysiakini that Kuldip had recently issued a warning to the hospital staff over SOP compliance issues.
However, according to the officer, who declined to be named, the objective was more towards compelling the errant ones into following the rules.
"We have to be strict when it comes to SOP, being a primary fully Covid-19 hospital. This is for the sake of the staff wellbeing too, and for their family and the community."
Asked what kind of action that awaits those who are found not following SOPs despite the warning, the officer said that they would be issued with a show-cause letter.
"Hopefully, when they have to put into writing their reasons for not following SOP, they would come to realise that we are still at war (with Covid-19)."
When contacted, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that such a reminder is necessary to prevent infection among healthcare workers.
However, he said frontliners would not be punished for testing positive for Covid-19.
"It's not true. The staff are being reminded not to flout the SOPs as the virus is everywhere.
"This is to protect themselves and prevent staff to staff infection as seen in many instances," Noor Hisham said in a text message.
Sungai Buloh Hospital is not the only Health Ministry hospital that is facing infection among its staff members.
As of Dec 15, 1,880 healthcare workers at the Health Ministry have been infected with Covid-19.
Last week, Noor Hisham said Covid-19 were detected among healthcare workers at Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR) in Klang, Serdang Hospital, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Ampang Hospital and Selayang Hospital.
On Dec 18, he said 280 Health Ministry medical personnel are in treatment for Covid-19 while 1,697 have been issued home surveillance orders.
HTAR is worst hit with more than 120 cases as of Dec 21, while Serdang Hospital has more than 50 cases, all linked to the Lestari cluster involving nursing home residents.