MINDEF introduces Mobile Swab Station to provide more efficient Covid-19 tests

It takes only 15 minutes to set up the Mobile Swab Station (MSS).

Jason Fan | May 13, 2020, 05:08 PM

On May 12, 2020, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced that the Covid-19 multi-ministry taskforce is planning to test over 300,000 migrant workers in dormitories.

To complement this effort, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) collaborated with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and ST Engineering to develop the Mobile Swab Station (MSS), a modified ambulance that is equipped with a swab protection screen, designed to allow swab tests to be done more efficiently.

According to MINDEF, there is currently a need for swab operations to be set up at different sites on a daily basis, due to the expansion of swab operations to non-Purpose-Built dormitories, which include factory converted dormitories, construction temporary quarters and private residential premises.

The MSS cuts down the time needed to set up by half

The MSS is a modified Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Cross Country Ambulance, which is mounted with a similar swab protection screen used by Singapore General Hospital's SG Swab Assurance for Everyone (SG SAFE) system.

With the MSS, swabs can be conducted on-site without having to transport potential Covid-19 patients to a separate facility.

Image from MINDEF.

The safety of the personnel involved is also enhanced, as swab operations are conducted in a safe, enclosed space with positive air pressure, thus improving the ergonomics and safety of the personnel.

The MSS have cut down logistical and administrative requirements such as the need to set up and tear down swab operations equipment, reducing the time needed to set up from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

First deployed on May 11

Each MSS can be set up by only three operators: the transport operator, the healthcare personnel conducting the swab, and another personnel to collect the swab sample after the completion of the swab.

Image from MINDEF.

According to MINDEF, the MSS was operationalised within three weeks from conceptualisation, compared to typical modification projects which can take more than three months.

The team behind the cross country ambulance is also working on two more MSS prototypes by end-June 2020: a Multi-Utility Vehicle that will be equipped with one swab station, and a 20 foot container that will be equipped with three swab stations.

Image from MINDEF.

"This allows the SAF to better support national requirements in the fight against Covid-19", said MINDEF.

According to Military Expert 7 (ME7) Low Koon Huat, who led the team behind the MSS project, the MSS was first deployed on May 11, and have been deployed to three locations thus far.

New mobile scanner reduces average registration time to less than a minute

In addition to the MSS, Army Engineers from HQ Maintenance and Engineering Support (HQ MES) also developed the Mobile Express Scanner (MExS) to improve the efficiency of the swap registration process and to optimise the deployment of the swab teams.

Image from MINDEF.

MINDEF stated that the MExS reduced the average registration time from four minutes, to less than one minute.

It also reduced the swab administrator's contact time with the patient, and ensured accuracy in the tagging of swab samples.

The MExS minimises error by automating data extraction from Identity Documents, such as Identity Cards and Work Passes, and consolidates all the data into a secured central database.

Since May 9, 2020, 10 sets of MExS have been deployed to 38 sites islandwide, covering around 2,000 patients.

Top image from MINDEF.