Tzu Chi Renders Support in Sabah Covid-19 Fight

On September 1, 2020, a new Covid-19 cluster was detected in Lahad Datu, Sabah. On September 26, after the Sabah state election, more cases were reported in Lahad Datu and Tawau. Since mid-September, Tzu Chi has been delivering preventive medical supplies to various parts of Sabah. This is made possible with contributions from the general public.

As some of the Covid-19 positive cases were prison inmates and staff in Tawau Prison, Hospital Tawau especially despatched medical personnel, and set up screening and treatment centres there. The prison deputy director, Jomison Gondikit, explained that as space was limited, they converted a vacant room and a prayer room for the medical personnel to work and rest. 

However, these rooms were stuffy and poorly ventilated. In order to provide a more comfortable working environment for the medical personnel, Tzu Chi loaned and installed four units of air conditioners on September 12. Upon further requests, volunteers also delivered 20 Jing Si foldable beds, mattresses and eco-blankets the following day. This spared the medical personnel from sleeping on the hard and cold floor.

Tzu Chi Tawau lent four units of air conditioners for the prison, so that the medical personnel could have a more comfortable working environment. [Photograph by Tan Boon Tiong]

Jomison was surprised by the volunteers’ efficiency in delivering the beds, to which the volunteers explained that the Jing Si foldable bed is a disaster relief invention by the Tzu Chi organization and hence, Tzu Chi Kota Kinabalu has stocked these for use during emergencies.

A week later, the number of positive cases continued to rise and it spread to the community. Beds in the prison and hospital were close to saturation. Another treatment centre was then set up in the Tawau Sports Complex. Once again, Tzu Chi Tawau received request for bed supply and tents.

On September 25, Tzu Chi delivered seven units of 10 ft x 20 ft tents to the Tawau Hospital, and 230 Jing Si foldable beds, and 230 mattresses and pillows (donated by the public) to the Tawau Sports Complex. It was hearty to see the hospital deputy director, Dr. Azman bin Ibrahim, join the volunteers in unloading and setting up the tents.

More than 200 Jing Si foldable beds ready to be set up at the sports complex. [Photograph by Foo Kee Luan]
The truck driver (in yellow top), who transported the tents and Jing Si foldable beds from Tzu Chi Kota Kinabalu to Tawau, offered his help in unloading the supplies although it was not part of his job scope. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]

Each of the foldable bed weighs about 15 kg, and the truck driver assisted the volunteers to move them from the truck to the sports complex. Volunteer Tan Boon Tiong remarked, “Actually the driver’s responsibility is just to make the delivery. Unloading is not part of his job. I’m really grateful to him for rendering his help in unloading and unpacking the boxes under the scorching sun.”

Timely aid and support

Dr. Azman said, “With the surge in patients, we needed to segregate them. Patients with severe symptoms, like those requiring the aid of ventilators, will be treated in the hospital. Patients who are tested positive but asymptomatic, will be transferred to the sports complex. It was commendable to have received Tzu Chi’s timely aid and support to set up the sports complex.”

He added, “Besides managing the patients, we also needed tents for an outdoor screening of suspected cases, including those who have come into contact with a positive case. Thanks to William Cheang, the chief engineer of Tawau Municipal Council, it was he who suggested us to reach out to Tzu Chi for help.”

Volunteer Leong Chin Wah reporting to Dr. Azman (middle) on the quantity of supplies on loan and/or donated by Tzu Chi to Tawau Hospital. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]

Dr. Mohammad Azmy Hamron, an orthopaedic assigned to manage and monitor Covid-19 patients treated outside of the hospital remarked, “Although the sports complex is on standby to house more patients, we need to be prepared, just in case. I used to see volunteers in Tzu Chi uniforms caring for patients in the hospital. Although I wasn’t sure about the organization they were from or what they did, I could see that they were helping others readily. Today, I have witnessed again how they helped to arrange for and move the beds. It’s quite a heavy and arduous task.”

After a brief introduction of Tzu Chi to Dr. Azmy, a copy of Tzu Chi monthly journal was presented to him. Upon being informed that the mattress was tailored to fit the foldable bed, Dr. Azmy was touched by the careful and special arrangements made. He uttered, “I’m really very grateful to Tzu Chi for the timely delivery of supplies that help us overcome the problems we faced.”

Volunteer Voon Siew Jin presented a copy of Tzu Chi magazine to Dr. Mohammad Azmy Hamron, after an introduction of Tzu Chi. [Photograph by Tsang Pui Ling]

After spending three hours unloading and moving the supplies, Tzu Chi volunteers were exhausted and took a rest on the foldable bed. Noticing that the foldable bed could take the weight of a few volunteers, Dr. Azmy exclaimed, “Wow! This bed can take a lot of weight!” In fact, the hollow bed, 30 cm above the ground, can take the load of 150 kg when fully extended. No installation of parts, a bolt, a wrench or any tool is needed!

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is everyone’s responsibility to observe the preventive SOP to protect ourselves and others from infection—Wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands frequently. It is also hoped that everyone can embrace a plant-based diet for better health. If we can all do our part and stay healthy, the medical system will not be further strained. Let us send our well wishes to Sabah and the world!

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