SINGAPORE: Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) will progressively resume admissions from Tuesday (May 18), after completing several rounds of COVID-19 testing for all inpatients and employees on campus.
As of Monday, six rounds of testing for all inpatients and two rounds for all 12,000 staff members on campus have been completed.
"The swabbing results for all sweeps have consistently returned negative," said TTSH in a media release.
"This gives us added assurance that the containment measures are tight, and our processes have been in place across the hospital."
There have been no new unlinked COVID-19 cases detected in TTSH since Apr 28, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a separate media release, adding that the hospital will therefore gradually resume the admission of patients.
Ambulance services to TTSH will also partially resume, starting with urgent cases taken to the hospital by the Singapore Civil Defence Force from 8am to 8pm daily. It will also see to urgent clinical appointments and electives during this period.
TTSH remains an open COVID-19 cluster, with 46 confirmed cases.
"As we progressively reopen our hospital, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and stay vigilant and strengthen our defences," said TTSH.
The hospital said it will take a “three-pronged approach” as it reopens, to reduce the risk of hidden infections.
“We will strengthen our protocols to test more regularly, monitor closely, and protect our patients and staff,” it added.
NEW MEASURES FOR PATIENTS
Patients will be swabbed on admission, as well as on a regular schedule during their stay and before they are discharged.
“This regular inpatient testing will help to detect asymptomatic cases and other cases that may be incubating the virus,” TTSH said. “If detected, they can be isolated immediately, and close contacts put on quarantine."
All patients will also be required to wear surgical masks if they can tolerate it based on their medical condition.
Patients who have stayed in TTSH during the last two weeks, and are assessed to be medically fit for discharge, with consistent negative test results, will be discharged.
They will then be placed on either stay-home notice or quarantine order by MOH.
"Their well-being will continue to be monitored throughout," TTSH said.
In addition, the hospital will step up clinical surveillance, with proactive monitoring and testing all inpatients who develop acute respiratory symptoms.
As an additional precaution, all patients transferring from TTSH and other acute hospitals to intermediate and long-term care facilities will be tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their scheduled transfer, said MOH.
"We advise patients to defer non-urgent visits to TTSH as it reopens its clinical services progressively," the Health Ministry said.
Visitor restrictions will continue to be in place.
For the next two weeks, one pre-registered visitor will be allowed per patient, with a limit of one visit per day for up to 30 minutes. Visitors are also required to wear masks at all times and refrain from eating and drinking while visiting the wards.
TTSH has also stepped up cleaning schedules across all wards and the entire hospital.
SAFETY FOR STAFF MEMBERS
In line with MOH's directive, all TTSH employees will undergo rostered routine testing at regular intervals.
Staff members will also continue to follow surveillance protocols, such as mandatory temperature monitoring and sick leave surveillance.
“We have also set up an ARI clinic for our staff on campus so that they can seek timely care,” the hospital said.
The wearing of personal protective equipment has also been stepped up across the hospital.
“Our enhanced staff policies during this pandemic are constantly reviewed in keeping with national restrictions and tighter measures within our hospital,” TTSH added.
“These measures will ensure the safety of our staff in caring for our patients.”
TTSH CEO Dr Eugene Soh said the hospital will “pivot (its) pandemic response to the increasing cases in the community”.
“Our measures have been tough but necessary in containing the cluster at our hospital,” he said.
“As we turn the corner, we must continue to stay vigilant, monitor the situation and look after one another in staying the fight against COVID-19.”
The first case detected in the hospital was a nurse who worked in Ward 9D, a general ward. She tested positive for COVID-19 on Apr 27.
Four wards at the hospital were eventually locked down, with more infections reported in subsequent days.