Coronavirus outbreak: NEW MEASURES

Clinics roped in to help detect and manage coronavirus cases

(From left) Multi-ministry task force co-chairs, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, and MOH director of medical services Kenneth Mak addressing a news conference yesterday.
(From left) Multi-ministry task force co-chairs, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, and MOH director of medical services Kenneth Mak addressing a news conference yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

MOH activates 900 clinics; doctors advised to give 5-day MC to patients with symptoms

People with respiratory symptoms such as cough, fever and sore throat will pay a maximum of $10 when they seek treatment at polyclinics and about 900 designated clinics as the Government steps up its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is also re-activating the Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) - previously used to deal with the haze and the H1N1 pandemic - to better detect and manage the disease now named Covid-19.

Doctors at all clinics, even those not designated as a PHPC, have also been advised to give five days of sick leave to patients with such respiratory symptoms.

In announcing these moves yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said at a news conference that the PHPC clinics are an important line of defence during public health outbreaks.

They provide subsidised treatment, investigations and medication during outbreaks. Staff at these general practitioner clinics have been guided on "the appropriate care protocols according to the assessed risk and diagnosis of each patient", and will be supplied with personal protection equipment.

The network of clinics will be progressively activated from Tuesday. Citizens and permanent residents will pay a flat rate of $10 for consultation and treatment, while those belonging to the Pioneer and Merdeka generations will pay $5.

Those with respiratory symptoms can also go to polyclinics, where the same subsidies will apply.

On the guidance to doctors to give five-day medical certificates for patients with respiratory symptoms, Mr Gan said the authorities noticed that many confirmed cases had not isolated themselves even after falling ill.

"We are quite concerned that many of the local confirmed cases had remained in the community, and some had gone back to work even when they were ill, after they had seen a doctor," Mr Gan said.

 
 
 

"This is not helpful in our efforts to reduce the risk of community transmission."

The five-day duration will also help separate the genuine coronavirus cases from those with other ailments. People who do not recover within five days will be referred for further medical assessments and tests. They are encouraged to return to the same doctor when they seek further treatment.

In a separate statement, MOH noted that although most people with respiratory symptoms do not have the coronavirus, they should still seek medical treatment early and stay home throughout their illness.

Members of the public can refer to this website for the updated list of preparedness clinics. They can also identify the preparedness clinics from the PHPC decal at these clinics.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'Clinics roped in to help detect and manage coronavirus cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe