SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has asked all hospitals to defer non-urgent surgeries and admissions to conserve resources in the healthcare sector amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community and at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).
"MOH is working closely with all public and private hospitals to ensure that patients requiring care will continue to be attended to. The healthcare community has also worked together to reserve more beds to manage any potential increase in COVID-19 cases," said MOH on Monday (May 3).
The ministry has also asked hospitals to defer non-urgent specialist outpatient clinic appointments.
Hospitals will contact affected patients about the deferments. The MOH said it encourages hospitals’ healthcare teams to work with patients in arranging teleconsultations and alternative care arrangements until "the current situation stabilises".
The Health Ministry said it has worked with public and private hospitals to "activate various capacity management and load balancing measures".
SCDF AMBULANCE CASES DIVERTED FROM TTSH
There has been a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community, with the cluster at TTSH growing to 35 cases as of Monday.
To reduce the risk of transmission and to free up manpower to care for existing patients, TTSH has from Sunday progressively ceased admissions of new inpatient cases until further notice.
All Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance cases will also be diverted to other public and private hospitals.
For patients requiring specialist outpatient clinic services, TTSH will defer the appointments of stable cases and initiate teleconsultation and medication delivery where appropriate, MOH said. Specialist outpatient clinic patients requiring in-person care will be seen by staff members who are not linked to the TTSH cluster.
From Monday, some hospitals have also started deploying doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to assist TTSH teams in caring for their existing patients, MOH said.
“These measures allow TTSH and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) to focus its attention on providing appropriate care for patients who are presently admitted, and to deal with the cluster of COVID-19 cases in the hospital,” MOH said.
NO INTERRUPTION TO URGENT CARE: MOH
The Health Ministry said there will no interruption to urgent care, adding that no hospital is denying medical care to patients who need it.
As a precautionary measure, hospitals may impose "stricter triaging criteria" for visitors, including asking visitors or accompanying people who had been to TTSH inpatient wards from Apr 18 to defer their visits, said the ministry.
“This is in the best interest and safety of patients and staff in the other hospitals, as the investigation of the TTSH outbreak is ongoing," MOH added.
VISIT A&E ONLY FOR EMERGENCIES
People should visit the emergency department only for emergency and life-threatening conditions, MOH said.
“These include persistent chest pain, breathlessness, sudden weakness and numbness, serious injuries and multiple trauma," it said, adding that longer wait times are expected as other hospitals step up to support TTSH.
People with non-emergency conditions should first visit their general practitioners or doctors at polyclinics, while those with respiratory symptoms should visit Public Health Preparedness Clinics as far as possible, MOH said.
At these clinics, Singaporeans and permanent residents diagnosed with respiratory infections will pay a flat subsidised rate of S$10 for consultation and treatment of the condition. Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation seniors will pay S$5.
The Health Ministry said it seeks “the understanding and cooperation" of people to support these measures and comply with safe distancing measures, while the healthcare system makes adjustments to cope with the ongoing situation.