SGH nurse's passing sparks concerns over healthcare workers' mental well-being

SGH responded that they are providing support to colleagues and have offered assistance to the deceased's family.

Zhangxin Zheng | December 11, 2021, 04:52 PM

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The death of a nurse who worked at Singapore General Hospital was made known to the public recently.

The nurse, Karunyah Paskaran passed away on Dec. 3, according to a Dec. 7 condolence message published on The Straits Times by the management and staff of SGH.

Nurse's death brings attention on healthcare workers' mental wellness

The obituary was later posted online, including Instagram page "sgnightingales", which advocates for nurses in Singapore. This has sparked more discussion on the well-being of healthcare workers.

An anonymous message to the page said Karunyah had depression and had really wanted to go back home in Malaysia. However, "the situation in [her] ward is not permitting her to do so".

The anonymous contributor added that they were unsure if the hospital management was aware of Karunyah's condition, but hopes the incident will remind the management to care more about their employees' mental wellness.

In response to the incident, a few anonymous contributors also alleged that hospital staff members were told not to like posts related to this incident while others came forward to share difficulties faced at work.

Meanwhile, the sgnightingales Instagram page reposted a number of Instagram stories about Karunyah, and about the working conditions that healthcare workers are facing:



SGH's response

In response to Mothership's queries, SGH shared a statement from the Chief Nurse Ng Gaik Nai on Dec. 10:

“We are aware of messages and posts on social media on the passing of one of our colleagues. We are deeply saddened by the loss of a well-loved colleague and dear friend to many in SGH. Our heartfelt condolences goes to her family. We have reached out to them to offer our assistance during this difficult time of immense grief. We are also supporting our colleagues as they mourn the loss. Out of respect for the family and our staff, we seek public understanding to not speculate about the incident.”

This statement was also posted on their Facebook page, urging members of the public to avoid speculating about the incident.

Ng also said that the hospital has reached out to the deceased's family to offer their assistance.

SGH did not address queries about whether staff members were told not to like social media posts related to this incident.

Reactions to SGH's response

Many commenters on SGH's post expressed concerns over the work environment for healthcare workers.

Some also defended the "speculation" or public interest over the nurse's death, calling for more to be done to improve nurses' working conditions.

Here are some comments left in response to SGH's Facebook post:

Sgnightingales subsequently reposted SGH's reply and here are some top comments:

What has been done for healthcare workers?

The pandemic has put a toll on healthcare workers around the world as they have been working longer hours to care for sudden surges in the number of patients due to new waves of Covid-19 infection.

Healthcare workers who are working away from home have it harder than others.

In October, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung issued a circular to ask healthcare clusters to roster their staff for leave towards the end of 2021, The Straits Times reported.

He also outlined four ways that the ministry is working on to help give healthcare workers "a reprieve": Redeploying excess swabbers to become healthcare assistants, calling for volunteers to join SG Healthcare Corps, tapping on private hospitals' manpower, and reducing non-urgent and non-life threatening care treatments at public institutions. 

In November, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament that around 1,500 healthcare workers resigned in the first half of 2021.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the resignation rate was 2,000 per year.

"Foreign healthcare workers have also resigned in bigger numbers, especially when they are not able to travel to see their families back home," Janil added.

Many of these healthcare workers were not able to take leave, with over 90 per cent of them unable to clear their accumulated leave days for this year.

Janil also highlighted the measures that the government is taking to help relieve the workload of the healthcare workers.

"We are reaching out to more volunteers to join the SG Healthcare Corps and support this important work. We are collaborating with private hospitals to help ease some of the load on healthcare workers in our public hospitals. We are stepping up recruitment of healthcare workers from overseas," he said.

If you or someone you know are in mental distress, here are some hotlines you can call to seek help, advice, or just a listening ear:

SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1-767

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)

Here are some useful tips on how to support your loved ones who are healthcare workers:

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Top image via @sgnighttingales/Instagram