COVID-19: Essential healthcare services to continue operating, other services to be scaled down
SINGAPORE: All essential healthcare services will continue operating even after the enhanced safe-distancing measures requiring most workplaces to be shut kick in next Tuesday (Apr 7), the health ministry said on Saturday.
All public and private acute hospitals, including offsite specialist clinics and offsite ambulatory surgical centres, as well as community hospitals, polyclinics, Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) and renal dialysis centres will remain open.
Non-PHPC general practitioner clinics, specialist clinics, dental clinics and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics may remain open only for the delivery of essential services.
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Essential services refer to those that would result in significant or rapid deterioration of the patient’s medical condition, and potentially threaten their health and well-being, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Non-essential services include aesthetic services, elective procedures such as cataract surgery for those in a stable condition, outpatient rehab and therapy appointments, health screenings and TCM services such as acupuncture.
“All non-essential appointments should be deferred, and any on-site staffing kept to a minimum,” the ministry said. “Where possible, services that are suitable for tele-consultation should be delivered remotely.”
Home personal care will be scaled down to serve only seniors with inadequate family support, for example, where caregivers are essential workers. Home therapy – except by tele-consult – and medical escort and transport services will also be suspended.
Senior care centres, day rehab centres, psychiatric rehabilitation centres and day hospices will be closed. Selected centres will remain open to support those with inadequate family support, as well as intensive care needs. Such seniors can also be supported with home care services including meals delivery if needed, MOH said.
Supporting services such as ambulance and patient transport, blood services, laboratories and radiological services, quarantine and isolation operations and border health operations will continue.
Essential supply chains required to provide the essential healthcare services should also continue operations, the ministry said.
Residential and home-based community care services such as nursing homes, psychiatric rehabilitation homes, psychiatric sheltered homes, inpatient palliative care, home medical, home nursing, home palliative care, interim caregiver service and meals delivery services will continue to function.
Blood donation services will remain in operation. People are encouraged to continue donating blood during this period, although they are encouraged to make appointments, MOH said.
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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the ramped up measures on Friday in his third address to the nation on the COVID-19 issue, describing them as a “circuit breaker” to curb the spread of the virus in Singapore.
While most workplaces will have to be shut, those in essential services such as food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and key banking services, will remain open.