Front-line Doctor

KUALA LUMPUR, 6 Jan -- Dr Yap Choon Fong, 30, bertugas di Depot Tahanan Imigresen Juru, pada Julai lalu. Dr Yap, yang sedang hamil ketika itu, ditugaskan di Unit COVID-19 untuk ke kawasan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan Diperketatkan (PKPD) bersama rakan sepasukannya yang lain untuk mengambil sampel daripada Pendatang Tanpa Izin (PATI) dan penduduk PKPD.

In April last year, six months after she tied the knot, Dr Yap Choon Fong learned she was pregnant.

She was delighted to be a mother, but on the other hand she was full of trepidation as she had just been transferred to the Covid-19 unit at the government health clinic in Bukit Mertajam, Penang.

The 30-year-old medical officer’s fears were not unfounded as her job required her to take samples from persons under investigation (PUIs) for Covid-19 at the clinic itself or at areas under enhanced MCO.

“My family and friends were also concerned about my risk of exposure. In fact, they advised me to apply for a transfer to another unit but I refused because we were experiencing a shortage of staff at the clinic.

“I was aware that as a frontliner, I shouldn’t be selfish. I then set aside my fears and continued to serve to fight the Covid-19 pandemic (with my colleagues), ” she said.

Dr Yap remained at the Covid-19 unit until she was 24 weeks pregnant, after which she was placed on duty at the same health facility’s regular daily clinic, fever clinic and also the Covid-19 unit on a rotational basis.

Like all other healthcare workers, Dr Yap donned personal protective equipment and observed standard operating procedures while at work.

While her pregnancy was uneventful, save for the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, little did the young doctor realise the “storm” that awaited her after she gave birth to a healthy baby boy at a private hospital in Penang on Oct 29 last year.

“Three days after my delivery, I received a call from the hospital saying the anaesthetist who gave me the epidural (for pain relief during childbirth) had tested positive for Covid-19. Of course, I was petrified when I heard this, ” she said.

Dr Yap, who was then breastfeeding her newborn, was forced to undergo a two-week quarantine during which she had to take care of her baby by herself.

“My husband and family were very supportive and would give me moral support through video calls, ” she said.

Fortunately, she tested negative at the end of the quarantine period, but the experience of going through the screening process made her understand better “how PUIs feel when they get themselves tested for Covid-19”.

Sharing her experience during the earlier stages of her pregnancy when she was involved in carrying out Covid-19 screenings in enhanced MCO areas, Dr Yap, who is currently still on maternity leave, said among the places her team visited were the Immigration holding depot in Juru, Penang International Airport, prisons and housing areas.

“Each day, we would be responsible for taking 200 samples at each station from PUIs comprising illegal immigrants, residents from enhanced MCO areas, and tourists, as well as Malaysian citizens arriving at the airport, ” she said, adding that her pregnancy was not an excuse for her to shirk her duties as a medical doctor.

“Being frontliners, we regard ourselves as close contacts as daily we are exposed to people who may be carrying the Covid-19 virus, but our job requires us to serve the community, and that’s what I did.”

She added that good teamwork, a positive attitude and support of fellow staff helped alleviate her stress and anxiety levels while she performed her tasks. — Bernama


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