Two-day wait for a bed in Malaysian government hospitals

PETALING JAYA, Selangor – With the emergency departments of some Malaysian government hospitals bursting at the seams, some doctors have said that the wait for beds can stretch to two days or more.

Speaking to The Star newspaper on condition of anonymity, these doctors say the shortage of inpatient beds, overstretched resources and a manpower crunch are the cocktail of reasons driving up the congestion at hospitals.

At a government hospital in Sabah, an emergency physician said the wait time could go up to two days and stretch to beyond four to five on bad days.

“The main cause is there are insufficient inpatient beds. Therefore, patients have to wait in the emergency department to be admitted,” the doctor said.

While patient deaths cannot be attributed to the long wait, it does indirectly contribute to further deterioration of the condition of patients.

“Indirectly, I would say it is possible,” the doctor said. “For instance, the lack of intensive care unit (ICU) beds means that patients stay longer in the emergency department rather than being transferred to the ICU, where they will get better care.”

However, the patients are treated while they wait for beds.

The emergency department crowd could get worse during a dengue outbreak, festive seasons, school holidays and long weekends.

At a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, a doctor said the emergency department was already crowded.

“The waiting time for patients to be seen can go up to three hours, but waiting for admission can be more than a day,” he said.

“Government hospitals deal with multiple problems. This does not only include clinical issues but also poor infrastructure, lack of human resources, social issues and even a lack of specialists.

“For a mere RM1 (31 Singapore cents), a patient can be registered at the emergency department to wait to be seen. If admitted, then the patient is admitted to a ward.

“However, there may be pending admissions that require more critical care. Thus, a patient may end up waiting longer at the emergency department as beds are limited, and at times, patients are managed in different wards,” he said.

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