Some public hospitals in S'pore seeing surge in Covid-19 positive & suspect cases at A&E

Waiting time at A&E will be longer than expected.

Jane Zhang | September 20, 2021, 12:07 PM

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Some public hospitals in Singapore have been experiencing an increase in the number of Covid-19 positive and suspect cases turning up at their emergency departments.

They have warned of longer waiting times for patients who are not critically ill, and encouraged patients with non-critical conditions to seek medical services elsewhere, such as at a general practitioner (GP) clinic or polyclinic.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

In Facebook posts on Sunday (Sep. 19), Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) revealed that they have been receiving higher numbers of Covid-19 positive and suspect cases to their emergency departments than usual.

Both hospitals wrote that, in light of the surge in community cases — 1,009 local cases were reported yesterday (Sep. 19) — they are working hard to open more screening spaces and set aside more wards and staff to accommodate.

KTPH stated that priority is given to patients who are critically ill, and the waiting time for other patients is expected to be longer.

Both hospitals encouraged patients with non-emergency conditions to seek medical attention elsewhere, such as at a GP, or polyclinic.

TTSH wrote:

"There may hence be inconveniences such as a longer wait time, a rescheduled clinic appointment or visit restrictions. We ask ahead for your understanding and patience to ride this wave out together."

National University Hospital

On Saturday (Sep. 18), the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that some public hospitals have experienced a surge in the number of patients who have rushed to the emergency departments with mild acute respiratory infection (ARI) symptoms.

MOH encouraged patients with mild symptoms to consult a GP at a Swab and Send Home clinic (SASH) rather than seeking treatment at the hospitals.

"This allows those with more severe illnesses and who are in need of urgent care to be attended to quickly and helps to preserve hospital capacity for those who truly need hospital care."

On Sep. 14, Singapore General Hospital (SGH) reported that they were seeing a high number of patients in their emergency department, and that priority would be given to those who are critically ill.

In a post on Sep. 17, National University Hospital (NUH) wrote that they have put in place extra precautionary measures in their emergency department to ensure the safety of their patients, and the waiting time will be longer than expected.

Patients with more serious conditions and who require admission will be prioritised.

NUH similarly encouraged patients with non-critical conditions to visit a GP or polyclinic, or the 24-hour Urgent Care Centre at Alexandra Hospital.

Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung warn of overwhelming hospitals

On Sunday (Sep. 19), Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung and finance minister and co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce Lawrence Wong put up Facebook posts about Singapore's Covid-19 situation and its relation to the country's hospital capacity.

Ong pointed to MOH data that has shown that between May 1 and Sep. 16, no one under the age of 70 who has been fully vaccinated has been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) or died from Covid-19.

Thus, younger fully vaccinated people are encouraged to recover at home, and patients will be admitted to community care facilities rather than hospitals, so that hospital bed and emergency services can go to those who need it the most, Ong said.

"Our ICU capacity is still holding up, but it is A&E and general wards that are coming under pressure. Our hospitals and healthcare workers cannot be over burdened. At this point, this is MOH’s biggest challenge and we are doing our best to solve this."

Wong wrote of the importance of closely watching Singapore's ICU cases, to make sure that the hospital system doesn't become overwhelmed.

"[I]n fact the ICU numbers can change very quickly and we cannot afford to be complacent," he stated, warning that we should never assume that ICU figures will continue to stay low or that the ICU capacity will never be put to the test.

Wong said that the upcoming one to two weeks will be critical, as the government monitors the trajectory of the Covid-19 situation and the country's overall hospital and ICU situation.

Top photo via Facebook / Tan Tock Seng Hospital. 

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