Malaysian healthcare will do well to remember painful lessons from dealing with Covid-19

Rome was not built in a day. The same can be said about an excellent healthcare system that promises to give the highest quality care to all.

Improvements are in degrees, and often, it’s two steps in front, and one step backwards.

In the words of our health officials, the system is underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. The last 21 months had laid bare the stark reality of our vulnerability and inadequacy.

Many deaths occurred, permanent disabilities are daily events and people are struggling day by day just to cope with the health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

To be fair, no healthcare system in the world was fully prepared for a pandemic of such magnitude.

The Covid-19 pandemic will not vanish overnight, and we are in for the long haul.

Variants of Covid-19 are going to continually threaten us, not to mention the emergence of other viral and pathogenic threats.

The world is now focusing on the latest variant of concern, B.1.1.529, named Omicron, which is poised to create another typhoon of possible destruction and widespread tragedies if the world does not act fast.

We are on the road to recovery but for any country to have suffered one of the greatest assaults to its healthcare system and economy, it cannot be business as usual.

Painful lessons must never be forgotten. All those sufferings and loss of so many lives should never be in vain.

Mistakes should never be repeated, gaps and deficiencies should be closed and addressed.

There are many big-ticket items that we should be prioritising, chief among them are healthcare funding, staffing and facilities.

So much needs to be done, step by step.

Critically, we need more hospitals, and more healthcare personnel, especially doctors and nurses.

We need to expand public health capability and capacity leveraging on virtual space and artificial intelligence.

Coordination and collaboration in healthcare are two commonly used ideas, but in reality, many times we failed miserably due to a lack of experience, due diligence, willpower to succeed, or simply by our “couldn’t care less attitude”.

The results are a series of catastrophes, one after another, some too painful to even remember.

Often, many events and negative outcomes were preventable, if only we had acted faster, communicated better and were willing to be flexible, rather than stuck in rigid, illogical guidelines or regulations.

Too often, healthcare decisions are not based on healthcare evidence, but heavily infused with other considerations, whether it’s political, socio-economic, or otherwise.

Another trend that we seem to have is a predilection to drive the majority of our healthcare funds to treatment and curative services, with very little left for preventive measures.

It’s a fact that it takes very little to prevent, but so much to treat. Yet, the investments we put into public health, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles are often just mere slogans and words, rather than the willingness to put in place good policies, do the hard work of enforcement, and reap real benefits.

In reality, we don’t mean what we preach, or say. Perhaps it’s because it costs very little to say, but a lot to really implement those changes.

On the same note, it’s undeniable there were success stories and effective strategies.

They must be built on, enhanced, and form the cornerstone of how we can overcome extreme challenges in the face of adversity.

Malaysia’s rapid mass vaccination rate must be emulated with its current booster dose programme. The Greater Klang Valley Special Task force playbook is a model every crisis-laden region can rely upon.

The public-private collaboration in all aspects of pandemic control – from testing to patient management, decanting of inpatients and vaccination – must be built upon.

The willingness of so many individuals and non-governmental agencies to rise to the challenge unsolicited, is a Malaysian trait to be proud of.

How quickly we enlisted inter-agency aid, like the army transporting much-needed vaccines, or setting up field hospitals to cope with the increasing capacity needs, how fast we turned stadiums and other facilities into efficient low-risk quarantine centres with everyone’s collaboration, must be encrypted into standard operating procedures for future reference.

Without health, there would be nothing.

Let’s all walk the talk, holding firmly to what worked. Let’s shift our efforts to change for the better, and place health above all else, en route to achieving universal healthcare for all, and to keep everyone safe.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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