66 healthcare workers infected but none likely in the course of work

Nurses wearing face masks walk outside the Singapore National Eye Centre on March 7, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

There have been 66 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among healthcare workers in Singapore as of April 26, and evidence suggests they were not infected through their work, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

He told Parliament in a ministerial statement on the coronavirus pandemic that 46 of the infected healthcare personnel worked directly with patients.

Aside from one case of a doctor in a private healthcare institution where a possible link to a Covid-19 patient could not be ruled out, Mr Gan said there is no established evidence to suggest that any of the healthcare workers were infected in the course of their work, and that they likely caught it elsewhere.

"Our healthcare workers have taken an extra level of care at their workplaces to protect themselves and their families," Mr Gan said.

He noted that a recent study by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) also did not detect any past infection among a sample of healthcare workers across various public healthcare institutions.

"Nevertheless, we cannot be complacent. We have reminded our healthcare workers constantly that they should take adequate precaution during their work to protect themselves, their patients as well as their family members," he said.

"In the event that our healthcare workers fall ill, we will ensure that they are well taken care of and our healthcare institutions will provide them with the necessary support."

Taking care of healthcare workers' mental well-being is also important, said Mr Gan.

He noted that the healthcare clusters had mental health support measures in place even before the Covid-19 pandemic, such as counselling clinics, helplines and peer support programmes.

These efforts have since been stepped up, said Mr Gan.

"For example, our institutions have rostered breaks and staff rotations to ensure that healthcare workers have sufficient rest periods in between work days," he said.

Mr Gan added that the healthcare clusters have also been actively working with the Healthcare Services Employees' Union on various initiatives such as the distribution of care packages.

Monetary compensation is another important area, Mr Gan said, though he acknowledged compensation alone is not enough.

He said: "We recognise the invaluable contributions of our workers, and will ensure that they receive due recognition for stepping up during this challenging period."

He said public healthcare workers working on the front line will receive a special bonus, as announced previously by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, and healthcare workers taking on longer or additional shifts during the outbreak are also paid allowances.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2020, with the headline 66 healthcare workers infected but none likely in the course of work. Subscribe