Public urged to only call 995 for life-threatening emergencies amid ‘significant stress’ on paramedics
SINGAPORE: Members of the public have once again been urged to only call 995 in the event of life-threatening emergencies.
As Singapore transits to living with COVID-19, "appropriate and prudent" use of 995 emergency medical services and emergency departments are important, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said late on Friday (Feb 25).
"It will ensure that patients truly requiring emergency medical care are able to receive it in a timely manner."
The authorities said that 995 calls to SCDF have increased from an average of 635 calls a day in January this year to an average of 830 calls a day in the first two weeks of February.
The spike was most pronounced on Feb 14, when about 1,000 calls were received.
"This has added significant stress on our paramedics who are already under significant pressure," said the authorities, adding that the average number of daily calls received before the COVID-19 pandemic was about 550.
About 1,700 calls in January and about 2,500 calls in the first two weeks of February were from COVID-19 patients. MOH and SCDF noted that about 45 per cent of them only required day treatment and did not need to be hospitalised.
The 995 emergency medical services "are meant to provide swift conveyance to hospital for people with life-threatening and emergency medical conditions. They need to be prioritised for such", said the authorities.
They added that individuals who are not suffering any life-threatening or emergency medical conditions should refrain from calling 995.
"If EMS calls continue to climb, the public may experience delays in ambulance response even for medical emergencies."
The authorities said that they have worked together to streamline the triaging and conveyance of COVID-19 patients who call 995.
Those who are in stable condition will be taken by SCDF to a COVID-19 treatment facility directly if they are assessed to require further medical monitoring and management of non-emergency medical conditions.
This will begin with the COVID-19 treatment facility at NTUC Health Nursing Home at Tampines from Saturday.
LONG QUEUES AT EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS
Emergency departments across Singapore saw long queues and waiting times in the first half of February - with an average of 3,100 patients a day, an increase of about 15 per cent compared to January.
As many as 80 per cent of these patients needed only day treatment and did not need to be hospitalised, said MOH and SCDF.
"If many patients with non-emergency conditions turn up at the ED, it could compromise the provision of emergency medical care for those who really require it," the authorities said, urging the public to seek treatment at a hospital's emergency department only for serious or life-threatening emergencies.
Rather than call 995 or approach an emergency department, patients under the home recovery programme or awaiting conveyance to a care or isolation facility are advised to seek medical help through a telemedicine provider, their regular primary care provider or the home recovery buddy hotline at 6874 4939.
Those who have self-tested positive on a self-administered antigen rapid test (ART) and have no or mild symptoms should simply self-isolate at home for at least 72 hours, the authorities said.
If necessary, they can book an appointment at any combined test centre or quick test centre to do a supervised self-administered ART.
If they are feeling unwell or experiencing symptoms such as fever or persistent cough, they can visit a Public Health Preparedness Clinic via private transport for medical attention.