a group of clothes on a bed: Differing statements from the health ministry and frontliners on the availability of PPEs has caused confusion among the public. (Bernama pic)

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Differing statements from the health ministry and frontliners on the availability of PPEs has caused confusion among the public. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Medical experts agree with the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) call for the health ministry to publish the statistics of individual hospitals and quarantine centres used to treat Covid-19 patients in Sabah, saying that incomplete information may lead to confusion among the public.

On Tuesday, the MMA called on the ministry to present a breakdown of the statistics, as higher bed usage at hospitals, quarantine centres and intensive care units in red zones could be masked by reduced occupancy at other centres used to treat Covid-19 patients.

Its president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said information from the ground on bed occupancy, especially in red zones, did not correspond with the figures presented during the ministry’s daily press conference.

Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said presenting general data was not enough.

“Although hospitals in rural areas may have low bed occupancy, hospitals in the cities such as Sandakan, Tawau and Kota Kinabalu are experiencing severe bed shortages,” Lee told FMT.

Malaysian Medics International (MMI) said the ministry’s decision to withhold the raw data could further dampen the public’s trust towards the government, on top of the political uncertainty.

“While I do understand the ministry’s decision in presenting general data instead of overloading information and confusing the public, this may also cause anxiety and a sense of hopelessness among the public from knowing too little and feeling too much,” MMI chairman Dr Vikkineshwaran Siva Subramaniam told FMT.

He also said it would be easier for the government to receive support and aid from NGOs if proper statistics could be provided to the public.

“The health ministry needs to be more transparent in informing of its shortcomings so that the right and relevant support can be provided.

“An example of this is the handling of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the previous (Covid-19) wave. The government said PPE was adequately available but the frontliners said the opposite. This led to confusion among the public and NGOs which wanted to provide support.”

He said Sabah should follow the measures taken by the Selangor government such as forming a state task force in handling the Covid-19 cases.

Former health director-general Dr Ismail Merican echoed MMI, saying that Malaysia wouldn’t be able to stop the spread of Covid-19 by depending on the health ministry’s efforts alone.

“How can you curb the infection if you refuse to share data? It’s impossible for health ministry officials to do everything by themselves. They must engage with all relevant stakeholders as well,” he said.