As a general practitioner (GP) battling the current wave of Omicron infections, I am glad that the majority of low-risk, fully vaccinated infected persons have minor symptoms and recover well.
However, due to the sheer numbers daily, I find myself bogged down by having to re-administer antigen rapid tests (ARTs) and complete administrative tasks to reconfirm mild cases who test positive at home, so that the positive result can be officially recorded.
Currently, having an official record of infection removes the need for a booster shot within a certain period to maintain the fully vaccinated status, allows care under the Home Recovery Programme for low-risk persons, and gives public healthcare institutions precise knowledge of a person's infection status.
Therefore, I applaud the move by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to allow patients with mild symptoms to get their result verified at a nearby test centre (Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms can get results certified for free at test centres, instead of GPs, Feb 15).
While its by-appointment-only system allows for crowd control and minimal waiting time, MOH must ensure adequate slots so that patients can get verified on day one of infection, and avoid further travel to another centre or ending up visiting a GP or polyclinic.
Remote tele-supervised ART testing ought to be extended by these centres to prevent infected persons from leaving their home.
Pharmacists may also be stationed to dispense pharmacy-only basic medications for symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough and sore throat.
In addition to uploading the results onto patients' HealthHub records, centres should consider providing an official document with wording which can serve as both medical certificates (for employers who still require them) and proof of time-based recovery.
Preserving primary healthcare capacity is just as important as preserving hospital capacity.
Long waiting times at clinics and over-burdened GPs may detract from chronic disease care, and create a spillover effect as patients may choose to visit hospital accident and emergency departments for simple ailments.
Furthermore, having a crowd of patients at cramped clinic waiting areas puts non-infected or vulnerable patients at risk of catching the virus.
I hope MOH can in future consider allowing self-reported ART positive results to be officially recorded for low-risk and fully vaccinated individuals.
Such a move would be in line with the current simplified healthcare protocols that emphasise personal responsibility in self-testing and isolation.
Firm measures can be put in place to deter false declarations.
Roger Teo Chee Yih (Dr)