Health Ministry mulls extended hours at govt clinics to prevent crowding at emergency departments

PUTRAJAYA: Extended operations hours for health clinics (klinik kesihatan) is among the solutions that the Health Ministry is mulling to prevent crowding at Emergency Departments at hospitals, once there are sufficient resources.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa (pic) said while citing the Auditor-General’s 2019 report that the wait time at emergency departments usually took longer than six hours.

“About 70% of the cases are green zone cases (which are non-critical/cold cases). This goes against the scope of or real function of the Emergency Department of Hospitals which should only receive critical cases,” she said in her new year address at the Health Ministry on Friday (Jan 6).

“To overcome this problem, I have proposed that the state health director relook the need for local health clinics under their purview operating for extended hours,” she said while adding that there were clinics in Klang which operated until 10pm.

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She said this would divert non-critical cases from Emergency Departments to health clinics.

However, she said there must be proper and thorough planning, to ensure that there was not a serious constraint on resources.

“Hospital directors must ensure that the new service is implemented immediately after approvals are given for new positions and additional human resources and finance,” she added.

To ensure effective service at hospitals, state health directors were also advised to realign their manpower such as by rotating officers between health clinics and hospitals.

“This measure will reduce the issue related to extremely long working hours for healthcare staff and will in turn reduce or prevent burn-out,” she said while also acknowledging that she had also served as a physician at an Emergency Department.

On another note, she said the ministry was expecting 30 healthcare facility projects to soon be completed and operational.

This included the Pendang Hospital in Kedah, Kemaman Hospital in Terengganu and Beaufort Hospital in Sabah. The Tawau Hospital on the other hand was still being renovated.

“It is hoped that better healthcare services could be provided and the needs of residents and customers in such places are fulfilled after these facilities are completed,” she added.

Code Blue reported last month that critically ill patients, including those on ventilation, were stranded for up to six days in the Red Zone of the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital (HRPB) emergency room due to a shortage of critical care beds and staff.