Health minister says private GPs can soon issue quarantine orders for suspected Covid-19 cases under revised Emergency Ordinance

Yiswaree Palansamy
·4-min read
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba says the government is working to revise the Emergency Ordinance to empower general practitioners in the private sector to issue home quarantine orders on people suspected of contracting Covid-19. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba says the government is working to revise the Emergency Ordinance to empower general practitioners in the private sector to issue home quarantine orders on people suspected of contracting Covid-19. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 ― Putrajaya is working to revise the Emergency Ordinance to empower general practitioners (GPs) in the private sector to issue home quarantine orders on people suspected of contracting Covid-19, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba told Malay Mail.

He said the Cabinet has approved the proposal to amend Act 342 of the Emergency Ordinance (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases 2021) to enhance community outreach by medical workers as part of efforts to rein in the high infection rate.

Malaysia’s new Covid-19 numbers shot up to 5,725 cases overnight from 4,094 on Thursday and 16 more people died from the virus, raising the death toll to 733 nationwide.

“In the Ordinance, the power given to the GPs is to the extent that if he or she suspects, or if they feel that the patients who come to them have Covid-19 symptoms before testing or after testing, they can issue this HSO,” Dr Adham told Malay Mail in an interview last night.

He added that GPs have been taking precautions, but will now be able to issue a “peranti” or a device to identify patients whom they believe to have Covid-19 and who should self-isolate to prevent the virus from spreading.

The HSO refers to the home surveillance order that currently can only be issued by government doctors on people who are suspected to have Covid-19. Persons under surveillance are also issued wristbands to identify their quarantine status and which can only be removed by authorised medical officers.

Government hospitals nationwide have been overwhelmed by the spike in the third wave of Covid-19 cases that began last September, and many are running out of beds to treat patients.

The Health Ministry has diagnosed 45,478 people to be active with Covid-19 as of yesterday, 301 patients are currently under intensive care, with 115 requiring intubation.

With cases chalking up four digits daily for the past few months, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong proclaimed a nationwide state of Emergency on January 12 until August 1 or until Covid-19 numbers are under control again.

Dr Adham said the amendment to the Emergency Ordinance is necessary as Parliament is currently suspended.

He indicated that there had been disagreements when the proposal was discussed at the National Security Council meetings, but said the government ultimately felt a proper formal policy needed to be made for fast action in the current health crisis.

The minister said the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) had asked for private GPs to be empowered as well during their meetings.

“MMA met us many times. They requested. They asked as to why the GPs are not being given a chance,” he said.

Once the amendment kicks in, Dr Adham said that private GPs will have a mandatory duty to notify the Health Ministry of their patients’ Covid-19 status or risk being penalised.

This, he said, will be key to cutting down the backlog of cases that led to yesterday’s record high, breaching the 5,000-case mark about a month ahead of past projections.

The minister also sought to address public complaints about the delay in treatment for Covid-19 patients who were diagnosed by private facilities.

“One of the problems as to why we are late in taking patients is because they don't notify. The GPs in the private hospital, their labs, they test and they don't include the data in the Public Health Laboratory Test Result System.

“So last time we did not take action against those who did not notify, but now we take action,” he added.

Dr Adham said that with the amendment, all medical practitioners who treat or have knowledge of the existence of diseases in any premises are required to give notice of their findings to the Health Ministry, regardless of a lab test to verify their suspicions.

He added that the government is also making several revisions to streamline the terms for personnel in the Emergency Ordinance; “health officer” will be amended to “an officer who is granted power”, which means any health officer, environmental health officer, or anyone deemed fit or appointment by the minister.

“So with this, we cannot wait until it goes to the third stage,” Dr Adham said.

Local council officers can also issue compounds to MCO violators

The minister also said that under the amended Emergency Ordinance, local council officers can also fine those who violate the movement control order (MCO), which is currently the domain of the police.

He said the extension of powers is to beef up enforcement and ensure the public comply with the rules set by the government.

He added that the term “health inspector” in the Ordinance was also changed to “environmental health officer” to include those who are not federal government staff.

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