As medical assistants, we are one of the first people to be in direct contact with patients when they walk into the clinic. We provide the initial assessments – from performing physical exams, right up till preparing the patient for examinations, treatments and procedures.
When the COVID-19 outbreak started, people were not taking it seriously because the awareness level wasn’t as high. As such, it was hard for us to implement the standard operating procedures (SOPs). A simple task such as requesting patients to practice physical distancing could sometimes lead to an argument.
Two days before the first Movement Control Order (MCO), a patient came to our clinic claiming to have a fever. Though there were no guidelines for COVID-19 testing then, we had already started asking patients if they had close contact with COVID-19 patients in addition to their travel history.
This particular patient said no to both, and my colleague sent him home with some medicine, thinking it was a normal fever. A few days later, we found out that he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to shortness of breath and tested positive for COVID-19. We discovered that he had not been truthful about his travel history as he had just arrived from Indonesia. He passed away after a day in the ICU.
Though we had started wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) during that time, my colleague who was in close contact with him had to be quarantined. Although I did not attend to that patient directly, it was a wake-up call for me as this showed how serious the situation was. My wife cried every day, worried about my wellbeing and the safety of our family.
Thankfully, our government and the Ministry of Health (MOH) have acted swiftly to contain the virus and raise awareness among the public regarding the risk of COVID-19. The fight is far from over, but we will get through this together.