Coronavirus: 49 patients moved to private hospitals to free up capacity at public facilities

Mount Elizabeth Hospital ward nurses preparing to receive the Covid-19 patients before their arrival. The transferred patients were ones who were no longer sick, or needed less medical care, but were still shedding the virus. PHOTO: MOUNT ELIZABETH H
Mount Elizabeth Hospital ward nurses preparing to receive the Covid-19 patients before their arrival. The transferred patients were ones who were no longer sick, or needed less medical care, but were still shedding the virus.PHOTO: MOUNT ELIZABETH HOSPITAL

Twenty-nine patients recovering from Covid-19 were transferred from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases to a ward at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard Road yesterday.

The move is aimed at freeing up capacity at public hospitals so they can take care of the more seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

The transferred patients were ones who were no longer sick, or needed less medical care, but were still shedding the virus. They will be discharged once they are confirmed to be clear of the virus and no longer risk spreading the disease.

Mount Elizabeth Hospital is the first of four Parkway hospitals to take in Covid-19 patients from the public sector, said Dr Noel Yeo, senior vice-president of Parkway's hospital operations in Singapore.

The number of new infections here, especially imported ones, has been fairly high as residents return from high-infection countries. There are now more than 300 Covid-19 patients hospitalised here.

The Health Ministry said that it expected the number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore to increase, and had plans in place to deal with increased demand for hospital and clinical services.

It has activated a collaboration between public and private hospitals to transfer well and stable Covid-19 patients to selected private hospitals so that capacity in the public sector may be freed for the management of more severe cases.

Over the past three days, the National Centre for Infectious Diseases had transferred 20 patients to Concord International Hospital, in addition to 29 patients to Mount Elizabeth Hospital, via dedicated ambulances, it said in a statement yesterday.

Obstetricians at Parkway East had expressed concerns that the ward for the Covid-19 patients is on the same floor as the maternity ward.

However, Dr Yeo said: "The same stringent safety protocols and precautionary measures will apply for these new patients, who will be housed in a single ward at the hospital."

These patients will not be allowed to leave the ward, nor allowed any visitors. All staff working in areas where the patients are must don protective apparel.

 
 
 
 

He added that the areas these patients had passed through during the transfer will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised.

Dr Yeo said: "We have been working closely with the Ministry of Health on joining the national effort against Covid-19, and how private sector resources may be utilised to alleviate the load on public healthcare institutions." He hopes other private sector hospitals will also "play their part to complement these efforts".

Last week, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said Singapore has sufficient healthcare facilities and workers to cope with the current number of Covid-19 patients.

He said there are also contingency plans if numbers go up. These include opening up more wards in public hospitals as well as using quarantine facilities for recovering patients.

MOH said yesterday that there are plans to further collaborate with private hospitals to manage Covid-19 cases, as well as patients with other conditions, to free up capacity in the public sector.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2020, with the headline '49 patients moved to private hospitals to free up capacity at public facilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe