SINGAPORE: The healthcare capacity to deal with COVID-19 will be increased significantly in the next two months, with the total number of bed spaces for those with mild symptoms doubling by end-June.
The ramping up of bed spaces at these community care facilities is part of a wider strategy which includes increasing capacity in other facilities, as well as in manpower, said authorities at a briefing on Tuesday (Apr 28).
The Government has ensured sufficient capacity by, for example, postponing non-urgent elective procedures and creating new capacity in isolation wards and intensive care units by repurposing existing hospital facilities, said Brigadier-General David Neo, director of joint operations at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Speaking at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force briefing, he added that hospitals are using teleconsultation services for follow-up patients and that private and public sector healthcare providers are collaborating.
“Overall, what we have is that we have created more than 18,000 bed spaces for isolation and care needs with another 23,000 in the pipeline,” he said.
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Speaking on the same topic later at a press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that given the different needs of patients, the Government has set up a range of facilities to match their medical requirements.
“The majority who have mild or no symptoms, as well as those who have largely recovered from the illnesses are cared for in community care facilities such as Singapore Expo, under the care of a medical team, supported by technology tools, such as vital signs monitoring,” he said.
There are 10,000 bed spaces at these facilities, with plans to double this by end-June, the health minister said. He added that those who require additional observation are admitted to hospital, and those with severe conditions are cared for in the intensive care unit.
“So far the majority of the cases have had relatively mild diseases or no symptoms, and they do not require extensive medical intervention. About 30 per cent require closer medical observation due to underlying health conditions, or because of old age. A very small number require ventilation support and care in intensive care units,” he said.
COVID-19 patients who remain well at day 14, and do not require further medical care may be transferred to community recovery facilities at SAF camps, he said.
Recovering patients beyond day 14 will be isolated at these facilities before being assessed for discharge. There are about 2,000 spaces, with plans to increase this to more than 10,000 by end-June.
The authorities said that patients waiting for results of swab tests are housed in what are known as swab isolation facilities. There are more than 4,000 bed spaces in such facilities which contain rooms with en-suite toilets. These include those in hotels and hostels. More than 3,000 beds are in the pipeline, Mr Gan said.
Also announced at the briefing, migrant workers who test negative for COVID-19, but may have other illnesses, will be isolated for up to five days before being allowed to leave, to prevent the spread of other illnesses.
Such workers will be housed in what authorities are calling dorm isolation facilities. There are more than 2,600 beds at these locations.
READ: Migrant workers with COVID-19 symptoms isolated before getting tested to prevent potential transmission
BOOST IN HEALTHCARE MANPOWER
Ministry of Health director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, who was present at the technical briefing and press conference, said that apart from building additional capacity, there was also a need for more manpower.
The SG Healthcare Corps was launched on Apr 7, with 3,000 healthcare professionals across all job groups signing up, Assoc Prof Mak said.
“This includes those from the private sector, includes those who previously were active in health care but have decided to choose a second career, and they've now come back, taking on their previous roles, and also those who in fact have decided perhaps to leave for another career or stop working and now coming back out of retirement as well,” he said.
He added that the ministry anticipates seeing more healthcare professionals, and even non-healthcare professionals coming together. The authorities have prepared specific training packages to make sure that they able to fulfil their roles competently in their tasks, he said.
“Some of the roles that they play include forming swab-testing teams that support and augment the roles and capabilities of our medical teams which are deployed for caring for foreign workers, for example, in dormitories.”
Singapore is now in a "circuit breaker" period to stem the spread of COVID-19. The period was at first scheduled to end on May 4 but will now last until Jun 1.
All non-essential workplaces have been closed and residents told not to leave the house except to buy food and groceries or to exercise alone in the neighbourhood.