Ong Ye Kung: Hospital beds could fill up in 1 week, ICU full in 5 weeks, if Covid-19 cluster explodes

Avoiding a "human tragedy" at all costs.

Low Jia Ying | July 29, 2021, 05:24 PM

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Preventing the healthcare system from being overwhelmed was the rationale for Singapore's return to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions, Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (July 28).

The health minister was speaking at a virtual awards ceremony for healthcare scholarships, where he addressed how easily the hospital system could reach capacity because of a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases, according to CNA.

He said five weeks is all it takes for Singapore's ICU capacity to reach its limit.

Avoiding "human tragedy" from a collapsed healthcare system

Ong highlighted a scenario where Singapore could potentially face a healthcare system collapse, reported CNA:

"The odds of a large surge in cases are stacked against us: We knew that when a cluster grows uncontrollably, infection numbers would double every seven to 10 days, which meant that hospital beds could fill up in a week. Beyond that, we could be overwhelmed."

He cited overseas examples where healthcare systems have collapsed.

According to the Straits Times (ST), Ong mentioned hospitals having to turn away sick patients, and doctors having to decide who lives and dies.

Ong said that "we cannot let a human tragedy like this happen in Singapore".

Doubled ICU capacity in the last two weeks

Ong highlighted that a quarter of the individuals linked to the Jurong Fishery Port cluster were unvaccinated, which puts them at greater risk for developing severe illness and needing to be hospitalised, according to CNA.

CNA reported him as saying that Covid-19 patients currently only occupy a small handful of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, but authorities have opened 70 beds, which is double from two weeks ago.

Ong said that there are plans to open more beds.

ST reported that hospitals have added 1,000 isolation beds, 80 per cent of which are currently occupied by both confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases.

Keeping an eye on ICU numbers

A key marker for assessing what kind of Covid-19 measures Singapore should employ is by "looking at the hospital capacity for Covid-19 patients" said Ong, according to CNA.

Ong made similar remarks on the eve of the emergence of the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, where he said that he will be closely monitoring ICU numbers.

As of Jul. 28, there are two individuals in critical condition warded in ICUs.

Acknowledged healthcare workers' efforts

Ong also took the time to recognise the hard work put in by Singapore's healthcare workers, CNA reported.

He acknowledged that many of them have not had "proper rest" since the pandemic started.

According to CNA, 164 scholarships were given out during the ceremony, and Ong encouraged recipients to continue learning and to hone their skills, saying that "we will support you".

Top photo via Kenny Chua/ Google Maps