Coronavirus: 5 things to know about the strategy to increase Singapore's healthcare capacity

The community isolation facility at the Singapore Expo.
The community isolation facility at the Singapore Expo.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The Republic has had to expand its healthcare capacity with the surge in patient numbers brought about by Covid-19, with several premises converted in a short space of time to house recovering or stable patients.

This ensures that the acute beds in hospitals remain reserved for those who need them most, and works in tandem with the authorities' continued efforts to contain and lower the daily infection rates.

Here is what the country has done to make sure amenities and manpower are increased and efficiently allocated.

1. Hospitals

Public hospitals have postponed all non-urgent procedures that had been scheduled in advance, while many healthcare institutions have resorted to teleconsultation where possible.

Hospitals have also repurposed existing hospital spaces so these can serve as isolation wards and intensive care units, and secured more medical equipment.

Collaborations between public hospital and private sector healthcare providers have further increased treatment capacity while ensuring existing patients with chronic conditions do not fall through the cracks.

2. Community care facilities

Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms and lower risk factors have been shifted out to the three existing community care facilities - D'Resort NTUC, halls one to six of Singapore Expo, and Changi Exhibition Centre.

Director of Joint Operations, Brigadier General David Neo, said Singapore has created about 10,000 such bed spaces and aim to double this by end-June.

He noted that the conversion of these places to community care facilities was done quickly. Singapore Expo was functional within a week, and the Changi Exhibition Centre was ready within two.

3. Community recovery facilities

These are for patients who remain well after two weeks of testing positive for the coronavirus, do not require further care, but are still waiting for assessment results that confirm that they can be discharged.

 
 
 

About 2,000 bed spaces are currently available in unused Singapore Armed Forces camps.

The authorities plan to increase this to more than 10,000 bed spaces by end-June.

4. Swab isolation facilities

More than 4,000 beds, including in hotels and government chalets, are already available for those who are waiting for the results of their swab test.

Another 3,000 more beds are in the pipeline.

5. Increasing healthcare manpower

About 3,000 healthcare professionals across all age groups and job groups have responded to the Government's call on April 7 to help out in public hospitals and community care sectors.

These include those who were formerly healthcare workers but have moved on to a second career and those who may have retired.

 
 
 

The authorities are also looking to include more healthcare professionals and non-healthcare professionals and have prepared specific training packages to make sure they are able to step into their roles.

Ministry of Health director of medical services, Professor Kenneth Mak, said anyone who is interested can volunteer and will be matched based on their skillset and the needs on the ground.

Dentists, for example, have been deployed in swab testing teams as they are well trained in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).