On Apr. 29, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) announced that no visitors will be allowed into its wards until further notice, following a spike in Covid-19 cases linked to their hospital.
However, visitors will be allowed for patients who are critically ill, on a case-by-case basis, said health minister Gan Kim Yong, on Apr. 30.
TTSH will also monitor the visitors, and encourage them to take precautions as they see to their loved ones who are critically ill, added the hospital's CEO, Eugene Soh.
Tighter measures to ring-fence TTSH community cluster
Soh also outlined the measures taken by TTSH in response to a recent Covid-19 cluster involving TTSH staff and patients, which was announced on Apr. 29.
13 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the cluster as of Apr. 30.
An immediate lockdown was imposed on the affected wards at TTSH.
All close contacts of the identified cases (including patients, visitors, and staff) who have been in the affected wards, have been quarantined.
TTSH has started mass screening for all inpatients and staff working in their wards. There are about 1,100 inpatients and 4,500 staff in the wards, including doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, housekeepers, and other support staff.
Additionally, TTSH staff and patients who were in the TTSH Main Block levels three to 13 from Apr. 18 to 28 are being tested, MOH said.
According to Soh, all inpatients will be swabbed by this evening (Apr. 30) and all 4,500 staff will complete their swabbing by this weekend.
MOH said that TTSH has also stepped up clinical surveillance of all inpatients who may develop fever and ARI symptoms.
Such additional testing enables MOH to draw out any hidden links.
Movement of healthcare workers into TTSH will also be restricted, including the suspension of all healthcare student postings at TTSH and non-essential trainings.
MOH said that it will carry out surveillance testing for:
- Patients who had been discharged from TTSH on or after Apr. 18.
- Visitors to TTSH on or after Apr. 18.
- Individuals who had been to, or who work at the public places that the TTSH cluster's cases had visited during their infectious period.
Healthcare institutions have also been reminded to closely monitor patients who were previously admitted at TTSH from Apr. 18.
Free Covid-19 testing for patients and visitors at TTSH since Apr. 18
The close contacts of the confirmed cases, who are at higher risk of infection, have already been identified through contact-tracing.
However, MOH is offering free Covid-19 testing to all visitors and patients who were at TTSH since Apr. 18.
This is to pre-emptively mitigate any potential risk of wider, undetected community transmission.
They are strongly encouraged to visit a Regional Screening Centre (RSC) or Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) for a government-funded swab test.
They are also advised to monitor their health closely for 14 days from their date of visit.
From May 3 to May 16, these individuals may book an appointment for a Covid-19 PCR test at any of the "Swab and Send Home" (SASH) PHPCs islandwide.
They can also walk in to one of the following four RSCs between 9am to 12pm, and 1pm to 4pm daily:
- Former Da Qiao Primary School, 8 Ang Mo Kio Street 54, S(569185)
- Former Shuqun Secondary School, 450 Jurong East Street 21, S(609604)
- Former Coral Primary School, 20 Pasir Ris Street 51, S(518902)
- Former Bishan Park Secondary School, 2 Sin Ming Walk S(575565)
Only asymptomatic individuals will be accepted at the RSCs.
Individuals who are feeling ill (e.g. have a cough, fever or running nose), are advised to visit a doctor or a SASH PHPC instead.
MOH said that individuals may also be redirected to their nearest SASH PHPC in the event that the RSCs are crowded.
Soh also explained that a ward lockdown entails strict restrictions on entry into the ward. No further patients will be admitted into that ward.
A dedicated group of staff will take care of patients in the ward, while observing enhanced infection control procedures.
Movement for patients and staff will be restricted, and patients will only be moved only for essential testing.
Both staff and patients will be monitored very closely in order to pick up any spread quickly and contain it as soon as possible.
Four wards have been locked down so far, and Soh said that all patients in these four wards have tested negative so far.
Nonetheless, TTSH will continue to monitor them as they are not out of the risk period.
76 TTSH staff on Leave of Absence
Soh disclosed that 76 staff in TTSH have been placed on Leave of Absence (LOA) and they anticipate the number to increase to 100 or more.
In order to manage the manpower shortage, TTSH has worked with MOH to reduce non-urgent elective procedures and non-life-threatening A&E cases.
It will also review its out-patient clinic schedule, to reduce the number of appointments by rescheduling less urgent ones.
Cluster at TTSH
There are now 13 Covid-19 cases linked to the TTSH cluster.
The first case, announced on Apr. 28, involved a 46-year-old nurse.
Eight more cases were confirmed on Apr. 29.
Out of the eight, two are Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) staff. One was a trainee, deployed at ward 9D, while the other was a doctor who saw patients in ward 9D. The other six are patients who were warded in Ward 9D.
A further four cases were confirmed to be linked to the cluster on Friday, Apr. 30.
Top image by 不倒翁Kwa and Alan Lin on Google Maps.