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Singapore

Visits to hospital wards to be suspended for 4 weeks as more COVID-19 cases detected among staff, patients and visitors

"The new cases have led to ward closures, putting a strain on bed capacity, says the Health Ministry."

SINGAPORE: All visits to hospital wards will be suspended for four weeks starting Friday (Sep 24), as the detection of COVID-19 cases among staff, patients and visitors has put a strain on staffing and capacity at some hospitals.

“With the rise in COVID-19 cases in the community, more COVID-19 cases have been detected amongst hospital staff, patients and visitors,” the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a news release on Wednesday.

“The detection of these cases had led to ward closures and staff quarantine which had impacted some hospitals, putting strain on hospital bed capacity and staffing at a time when more hospital beds are ramped up to care for hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”

The tightened measures will be taken to “safeguard hospital capacity”, MOH added. However, some patient groups will be allowed visits on a case-by-case basis as assessed by the hospital.

These include patients who are in critical condition, paediatric patients, birthing or post-partum mothers and patients requiring additional care support from caregivers.

Up to five pre-designated visitors may be allowed for patients who are in critical condition, with a maximum of two at the patient’s bedside at any one time. The other groups will be allowed only one pre-designated visitor, with one visit per day, MOH said.

All approved visitors are required to produce a valid negative antigen rapid test (ART) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test obtained within the last 24 hours of each visit.

These tests, which are required regardless of the individual’s vaccination status, must be administered or supervised by MOH-approved COVID-19 test providers.

Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and are able to present a valid pre-event test (PET) exemption notice will not be required to undergo testing.

They must also comply with safe management measures, such as wearing face masks “with good filtration capability at all times” and refraining from eating or drinking in the wards.

They must also not use the patients’ toilets in the wards and avoid sitting on the patients’ beds, MOH said.

MANDATORY TESTING FOR SOME EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT PATIENTS

The ministry also announced on Wednesday that it will implement mandatory ART testing for some “higher risk patients” at emergency departments and 24-hour emergency clinics to reduce the risk of transmission in these areas.

This comes as more COVID-19 cases are “presenting pre-symptomatically or asymptomatically”, it said. Patients presenting acute respiratory infection symptoms are currently being segregated from other patients.

Patients who will require testing include those who are lodged in emergency department beds for prolonged observation in the short stay unit or extended diagnostic and treatment unit.

Those who are required to undergo mask-off assessment and/or procedures lasting at least 15 minutes will also need to be tested, as will accompanying individuals who are allowed to stay with the patients through the observation period for more than 30 minutes.

The cost of ART testing will be subsidised by the government for both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients until the end of the year, MOH said. However, accompanying persons may be required to pay for the test, depending on the hospital.

It added that it has increased surveillance testing frequency for hospital staff as well as vendors who work in the hospital to identify COVID-19 infections early.

The ministry urged individuals who have non-emergency conditions or mild symptoms to avoid seeking treatment at the hospitals and consult a general practitioner (GP) or urgent care centres instead.

“For those who are concerned that you may be infected with COVID-19, you may proceed to a Swab and Send Home (SASH) clinic instead,” it said.

“The SASH GPs will assess the severity of your symptoms and perform COVID-19 diagnostic tests when needed to confirm your health status.

“This will allow patients with more severe illnesses and who require emergency urgent care to be attended to quickly and helps to preserve hospital capacity for those who truly need hospital care.”

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Source: CNA/ga(ac)

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