Windows left open in Malaysian ICU after air conditioning breaks down

Windows left open in Malaysian ICU after air conditioning breaks down
Wilson wiping the sweat off his brother Sundaraj, who has been in a coma at the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan’s ICU ward after an accident last month.
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

KUANTAN: The intensive care unit (ICU) at Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan is in critical condition - which bodes ill for its patients.

The air-conditioning is out, windows are being left open to let fresh air in and stand fans are being used to cool the patients and crucial equipment.

But the staff are stewing in the heat and there is no solution or immediate relief in sight.

The staff are working in stuffy rooms and have to ensure the patients do not get bedsores from excessive sweating in the high humidity.

They are frustrated and could be heard grumbling about the working conditions.

"It rained a few days ago, but the weather is hot again," said a medical officer.

"Everyone is sweating, but at least we can walk about or change clothes. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable it is for our bedridden patients."

A nurse said the hospital management was aware of the situation as many requests had been made for the air-conditioning system to be repaired.

"We don't know what's causing the hold-up.

"I hope we can get portable air-conditioners in by the end of the week," she said.

Visitor Wilson Ramamoorthy, 49, said he was shocked to see the ICU operating without air-conditioning.

"It is very hot and humid inside. Why is there no portable air-conditioner in such a high priority unit?

"The doctors and nurses said they are also suffering, but cannot do anything about it. I sympathise with the staff and patients," he said.

Wilson, whose brother Sundaraj, 55, has been in a coma after a road accident last month, said he was worried that the open windows increased the risk of infection among the patients. The open windows could also allow mosquitoes and flies into the ICU.

"If someone dies from an infection, who is going to take responsibility?" asked Wilson.

Pahang Health Department director Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said the aged air-conditioning system in the block broke down about three months ago.

He said the hospital's support services provider was placing stand­alone cooling units in high priority areas in stages, as a temporary solution.

"A tender for the repair of the air-conditioning system has been issued and we expect work to begin by March," he said.

However, the repair may take time - as long as a year and a half - because the damage was severe.

Dr Zainal Ariffin explained that a large part was damaged, including the power supply unit, so the whole system hd to be replaced.

Asked why it would take so long for the problem to be dealt with, he said assessment and estimation of the costs involved many agencies, including the Public Works Depart­ment and Health Ministry.

He admitted that the patients would be more susceptible to infection without the air-conditioning and hoped the problem could be resolved as soon as possible.

State Health, Human Resources and Special Functions Committee chairman Datuk Norol Azali Sulaiman and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam could not be reached for comment.

Nearly two years before air-cond is normal again

PETALING JAYA: Plans are under way to replace the air-conditioning system at the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan in Kuantan, says the Health Ministry but it could take nearly two years before it is completed.

The eight-storey building of the main block - with 851 beds - has suffered an air-conditioning malfunction.

However, the day care treatment in the main block was not affected, said a ministry official.

The hospital has four blocks.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the malfunction of the centralised air-conditioning system in the main block understandably affected the comfort level of many patients and staff, as well as the quality of clinical services.

"Nonetheless, plans to replace the current system are already under way," he said in an e-mail reply yesterday.

Dr Hisham said a tender advertisement was published on Nov 9 and replacement work was expected to commence in March.

It will take 18 months to complete. The malfunction happened about three months ago.

"We are trying our best to speed up the process," he said when asked why it would take so long to rectify.

He said that as a temporary measure, five split air-conditioning units had been installed in the Special Care Nursery, two in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and two portable air-condition units were put in the ICUs.

The hospital is proposing to add a further four or five split air-conditioning units in ICUs and two split air-conditioning units with air curtain at the PICU, he said.

"The installation will be completed within two weeks," he said.

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