The National University Health System (NUHS) and SingHealth, two leading healthcare groups in Singapore, have announced their readiness to increase hospital capacity in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), there has been a notable increase in infections, with 32,035 cases reported in the last week of November, up from 22,094 in the previous week.
Despite the rising numbers, MOH reassured that the current hospitalisation and ICU rates are not as alarming as during the peak of the pandemic.
Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that the circulating variants are more transmissible or lead to more severe illness. However, the increase in cases is putting a strain on hospital resources.
NUHS, overseeing the National University Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, and Alexandra Hospital, is proactively monitoring the situation. “We continue to remain vigilant and maintain surge capacity in our inpatient facilities, including our intensive care and isolation facilities,” said a NUHS spokesperson. The spokesperson also confirmed that elective procedures remain unaffected at the moment.
Similarly, SingHealth, which operates several hospitals and specialty centers, is on high alert.
Deputy group CEO Fong Kok Yong stated that their hospitals are well-prepared to expand capacity to care for COVID-19 patients as necessary.
SingHealth said that it has implemented measures like same-day admission, day surgeries, and initiatives to reduce hospital stays, such as pre-operative rehabilitation and early mobilisation of post-surgery patients.
NUHS mentioned that it would redeploy and increase manpower to support high attendance at its emergency departments. The group also highlighted the use of senior emergency physicians to review cases for admission to avoid unnecessary hospital stays.
NUHS and SingHealth are also promoting alternative arrangements, including home recovery programs, teleconsultation, and remote prescription services, to manage patient flow efficiently.
They urge the public to seek emergency department services only for serious or life-threatening conditions, such as chest pain, breathlessness, and uncontrollable bleeding.
For non-emergencies, the public is advised to visit general practitioners or 24-hour clinics.
“No beds available in the wards as they were fully occupied”
The Straits Times reported the experience of an unnamed retiree in her late 70s, who was discharged from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after a three-night stay for lung infection. This occurred in the last week of November, coinciding with 2023’s peak week for COVID-19 infections.
She recounted that while initial triage and tests at SGH’s Emergency Department (ED) at 9:30 AM on 25 November were “fast and efficient,” the wait for a ward bed was “painful.”
The retiree observed patients on trolley beds along the corridors outside the ED observation rooms as she was wheeled to the holding area.
“I was told there were no beds available in the wards as they were fully occupied. I was then placed in a large unisex hall near Outram Community Hospital. It felt like being at Grand Central Station in New York City, with a constant flow of patients being wheeled in from the emergency room and others heading to their wards,” she explained.
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