SINGAPORE - When Covid-19 hit Singapore, staff in the healthcare profession swung into action, many of them volunteering to serve on the front lines of the crisis.
Among them was Dr Rufus Daniel, 52, a family physician and associate consultant at Yishun Polyclinic.
He set up and ran a medical centre at a migrant worker purpose-built dormitory at Kranji Lodge 1, and moved on subsequently to work at one of the first hotels converted to swab isolation facilities (SIFs) in Singapore.
Dr Daniel was among six polyclinic healthcare front-line staff who received the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP) Covid-19 Warrior Award from President Halimah Yacob on Saturday (Nov 7).
In recognition of their courage and dedication in the fight against the coronavirus, the awards were presented at a virtual ceremony on the occasion of the organisation's 20th Anniversary.
Themed "20 Years of Better Healthcare Together", the event also saw NHGP unveiling Singapore's largest fabric photo mosaic comprising 2,020 photos taken by staff. The mosaic has earned a place in the Singapore Book of Records.
"I feel extremely proud, fortunate, and humbled to be receiving this award," Dr Daniel said.
Apart from coming up with ideas to improve the workflow at the medical centre, he also went above and beyond the call of duty, including by buying briyani treats for some of his patients and, on one occasion, going out of his way to help an anxious Bangladeshi worker get in contact with his wife in Bangladesh.
"I've learnt so much from the different people I came into contact with and worked with, and I'm thankful to the rest of my team for their hard work and commitment," said Dr Daniel.
Another award recipient was Ms Tan Pek Hoon, 50, a senior nurse manager at Yishun Polyclinic, who was the nursing lead for the National Healthcare Group's mass swab team. Together with her team, Ms Tan moved from site to site, readily volunteering to help with the swabbing of big groups of foreign workers, many of whom tested positive for Covid-19.
As part of her work, Ms Tan supervised the team's work on site, guided them on the swabbing technique and worked with the infection control team on guidelines for mass swabbing work.
"I was actually not worried at all, as we were taking all the precautions necessary to protect ourselves. I've been a nurse for over 30 years - and I've been through Sars, and now Covid-19. We have a marvellous team, and I was happy to step up," she said.
Madam Halimah noted that primary care played an even more critical role in containing the coronavirus and keeping citizens safe and healthy.
"I would like to commend the NHGP staff for the hard work and sacrifices in support of our nation's fight against the pandemic," Madam Halimah said.
"It is also encouraging to see that NHGP has turned the Covid-19 situation into an opportunity by going digital and expanding its telehealth services."
Madam Halimah added that as a result of these telehealth services, more patients can now consult NHGP's care teams safely and conveniently from their homes, with more than 125,000 such sessions conducted across the organisation's six polyclinics in 2020.
The Tele-Dietetics system, which was launched in March this year, enabled patients with chronic diseases, as well as paediatric patients with feeding and nutritional needs, to consult via telephone or video with NHGP's dietitians.
Also launched this year was the Tele-Psychology service, which gives eligible patients with existing psychologist review appointments the option of a telephone consultation with an NHGP psychologist. This allows the psychologists to step in and provide crucial mental health support and intervention to patients remotely.
Most recently, the Tele-Direct Observed Therapy (DOT) service allows patients with tuberculosis to substitute their face-to-face visits to the polyclinic with a video consultation with a nurse. The programme was piloted at the Yishun and Woodlands polyclinics in June, and was made available at all other NHG polyclinics in October.
Associate Professor Chong Phui-Nah, chief executive officer of NHGP and Primary Care said: "Over the past two decades, as NHGP grows from strength to strength, we remain firmly committed to improving the health and reducing illness of the population we serve.
"Looking ahead, NHGP hopes to continue this strong collaborative effort, with the goal of bringing better healthcare together - for our patients, the community and the population at large."