PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Government hospitals in Malaysia are running out of beds at intensive care units (ICU) to treat Covid-19 patients as the number of people falling critically ill escalates, says the country's Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Dr Noor Hisham said ICU occupancy rates at hospitals in the capital city Kuala Lumpur, and in Selangor, Penang, Sarawak, Kedah and Perak are over 80 per cent and some hospitals have even used up all the ICU beds designated to treat Covid-19 patients.
Currently, Dr Noor Hisham said, there are a total of 1,388 ICU beds in 78 government and teaching hospitals nationwide, out of which 850 or about 61 per cent have been set aside to treat Covid-19 patients.
"This is the total available for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 cases. From this number, we have allocated 850 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
"However, the total number of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients is increased from time to time when there is a need," he said in a Facebook post on Saturday (May 15).
He said while hospitals can turn normal wards into ICUs complete with the necessary equipment, it will be a struggle to constantly keep up if critical Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
He explained that hospitals allocate a certain number of beds in their ICUs for Covid-19 patients and other critically ill patients and this number can vary depending on the number of cases needing treatment.
"When there is a drop in critical Covid-19 cases, the state health departments may also reduce the number of ICU beds to treat Covid-19 patients. If there is an increase in critical cases, the quantum will also be increased, " he said.
He said hospitals are ready to repurpose other areas into ICU units as part of their preparedness strategy to cope with the surge in cases.
The government had on May 7 reported a 44 per cent increase in admission of critical cases to the ICU nationwide from two weeks earlier. At that time, the ICU bed utilisation rates in 22 Covid-19 hospitals were said to have exceeded 70 per cent, and some reaching over 90 per cent.
As of Sunday, the Health Ministry reported 3,780 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 470,110.
Selangor recorded the highest number of cases at 1,275, followed by Sarawak (405), Kedah (363) and Kelantan (357).
This is followed by Kuala Lumpur (342), Johor (224), Penang (187), Pahang (159), Melaka (122), Perak (115), Sabah (87), Terengganu (58), seven each for Labuan and Putrajaya and Perlis (2).