SGH not equipped for H1N1 tests

By Raynore Mering

KUCHING: The Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) here is currently not equipped to conduct tests for the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, and even if it was, not everyone would have the chance.

In a response to The Borneo Post’s front page report yesterday which is bound to raise more questions about the hospital’s H1N1 measures and preparedness, SGH director Dr Zulkifli Jantan said the upgrading of the laboratory facilities were being planned and funds had been requested.

He said in the meantime samples were only taken for admitted cases or cases which had complications.

The samples, he said, were sent to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, and the results were only available in two to three days.

In this respect, he said those who had been tested still needed to be isolated for two to three days until the results prove them negative.

It is learned that the facilities for H1N1 tests were recently made available at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.

“Another fact is that even when the test becomes available in SGH, it is unlikely that we will be able to test everybody who has symptoms. This is because SGH also has to do tests for the whole state.

“There will still be a selection criteria applied based on the capacity of the equipment to do the tests,” Dr Zulkifli said.

Having said that, he assured the public that “most people will have only mild sickness if infected with A (H1N1).”

“You just need to isolate yourself for a few days to prevent infection from spreading. You do not need to come to the hospital. In fact, we would like to request that you do not come so that the service is not congested.”

However, he said those with signs of difficulty in breathing, bleeding during coughs, chest pains, constant vomiting or diarrhoea, prolonged fever for more than three days or relapsed fever after three days must go to the hospital.

Other symptoms, he said, were unusual behaviour such as feeling disillusioned, feeling less responsive and body trembling or sudden giddiness while standing or less discharge of urine.

Dr Zulkifli also said the symptoms to watch out for in children were listlessness, change in behaviour or mental status, easily upset or angry, dehydration, dry tongue, absence of tears when crying, less urine, faster breathing, chest recession, fits, dark blue lips or tongue and prolonged fever.

On Tuesday, a reader of The Borneo Post fumed about being given the run around when he sought treatment for fear of contracting the H1N1 virus as he had just returned from Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

Relating his ‘merry-go-round’ experience, he said he had symptoms of the H1N1 and went to SGH to get tested, but to his surprise he was turned away and told to go to a polyclinic instead.

He then went to a polyclinic at Jalan Masjid only to be told to go to a private medical centre if he wanted to be tested.

With his patience running out, he went to a private medical centre in the city to get checked, but again, he was directed to go back to SGH because the centre too did not do test for the H1N1.

He then returned to SGH which once again told him to go back again to the polyclinic. After a heated argument, he relented and went back to the polyclinic.

There, after recording his temperature, a nurse told him to wait for a doctor. In the midst of waiting, he asked if he would get tested. Again to his surprise the nurse told him no.

Not wanting to spend another hour in the congested clinic, he walked out and made the call to The Borneo Post.

“There should be a proper avenue to handle this sort of cases. Now what should those like myself supposed to do? Go home and wait or what? I don’t even know if I’m a positive case or not and if I am, did I risk infecting others by going from one hospital to another and to the clinic just now?” he asked.

He said the Health Department has to come up with a better solution to this as this would cause panic among the public.

He said it was especially worrying for children and elderly.

Dr Zulkifli had on Monday said that the hospital had came up with new steps to mitigate the overcrowding in the hospital and also to prevent the transmission of the H1N1.

He said admission would only be limited to acute cases whereas for other cases, they would be given outpatient treatment or daily treatment.

“For non-critical cases, these will be postponed until the situation returns to normal. As such, those patients who await their turn for procedural or elective of non-critical operation will be given new appointment dates,” he said in a press statement.

He advised the public against going to the SGH’s emergency department when they had normal flu even if they suspected themselves of contracting the H1N1.

He said they should isolate themselves at their homes until the fever and coughs had receded and that hospital treatment was only needed if they had the influenza symptoms.

Extracted from Borneo Post Online

If I have signs of fever, coughs and flu and not sure if I have A(H1N1) virus, I should just quarantine myself at home without medication? If I have A(H1N1) virus without knowing it, by the end of the 10-day quarantine I could be dead!

I think Sarawak government need to come up with better healthcare system. Where and how to contain the wide-spread of infectious disease. A(H1N1) virus could just be a tip on the iceberg. Are we even prepared to face a pandemic outbreak of any kind of diseases?