SINGAPORE: Cases of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) employees being shunned in public or asked to move out of homes is “a very worrisome trend”, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (May 11).
The hospital is an active COVID-19 cluster, with 43 coronavirus cases linked to it.
“This is a very worrisome trend ... we observed some minority of resident Singaporeans taking steps to protect themselves at the expense of our healthcare workers' well-being. Some of them have been asked to move out of their homes by their landlords, some of their co-workers are shunning them. I think these are wrong,” said Mr Gan in Parliament.
“We are struggling because on one hand, we know this is wrong, we should not condone such actions. On the other hand, we are concerned about the well-being of the healthcare workers and do need to find ways to help them and support them.”
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The Health Minister was responding to a clarification from Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng (PAP-Jurong) about what is being done to help affected TTSH workers.
Dr Tan cited several cases of nurses who have been told by their landlords to move out at short notice, as well as a father who works at TTSH who has had to move out of the house to keep his wife and her fellow healthcare workers at another hospital safe from COVID-19 transmission between hospitals.
“What is being done to help affected TTSH workers, nurses who can't find a place to stay, healthcare workers who can't find a Grab or taxi to bring them to the hospital or to take them home after a shift, families who have been separated by necessary COVID-19 precautions who need help with childcare, help with getting the kids to continue in school?” he asked.
He also suggested that the Ministry of Health (MOH) set up a team to connect government agencies to provide help to affected TTSH healthcare workers, especially for “challenges that may beyond the reach of individual hospital management”.
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MOH and the multi-ministry task force are working with TTSH and other hospitals to provide support for the affected workers, said Mr Gan. He added that the team has started negotiations with hotels and other places to provide alternative accommodation to affected healthcare workers.
“Let me say that this should not be an excuse to the landlords to kick them out on the basis, since now there's an alternative accommodation, why not just move over to the hotels rather than staying on in the flat," he said.
“I think it is still our preference to encourage our landlords to understand the situation, to play their part to support our healthcare workers, and the work that we do. And I also want Singaporeans to also show their support to these healthcare workers, because they are putting themselves in harm's way in order to protect us. So let us work together to protect them.”
In his ministerial statement earlier, Mr Gan acknowledged reports of healthcare workers from TTSH being shunned in public or refused services after the cluster at the hospital emerged.
“I know this comes from a small minority of Singaporeans. The great majority is thankful for the sacrifices and contributions of our healthcare workers, including from Tan Tock Seng Hospital," he said.
Thanking healthcare workers for their contributions, Mr Gan added: “We know you have been working tirelessly in difficult and uncertain conditions. Despite the stressful situation caused by the outbreak, you continue to do your best for the patients.
“I believe I speak for the great majority of Singaporeans, all of us in the Ministry of Health, and everyone in this Chamber, that we are all solidly behind you.”