Healthcare director Jessie Ho, 54, had just four days' notice to create a community isolation facility at the Singapore Expo. The number of Covid-19 cases had hit 1,000 in Singapore on April 1 and cases in migrant worker dorms were rising.
To manage the surge in demand for hospital spaces, the Government decided to convert the Expo into a space for those needing less medical attention.
The fast pace of events piled the pressure on Ms Ho - director of the healthcare enablement office of Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) - and her team to get things under way before patients started streaming in. "We had four days to institute a new model of care," she says of the facility, which has ended up housing nearly a thousand patients at a time.
Ms Ho and her Expo team of about 30 people set up kiosks monitoring patients' vital signs and developed software so they would have patients' details from the hospitals before they arrived. They also created multi-language software for patients and conducted training for clinical teams from different hospitals to standardise procedures.
They pulled it off - but after that, she and the team often worked 14-to 16-hour days over a month to refine the set-up. Ms Ho says: "For a whole month we huddled together at night once every two to three days to tweak the system so that we could stabilise and improve the care we were giving to patients."
IHiS is the technology vendor for Singapore's healthcare sector. It was able to deploy technology such as remote-controlled robots to minimise unnecessary contact between the 15 nurses and eight doctors per shift and the 800 to 900 patients in the Expo halls. But this meant Ms Ho's team had to set up the technology from scratch at the Expo and teach patients how to use the gadgets. "There was some concern and fear that I would be infected. But we took all necessary precautions and used a lot of hand sanitiser," she says.
Her 23-year-old daughter is a nurse at Sengkang General Hospital and both will be at their posts today. Ms Ho has two other daughters, 21 and 25, who will watch the celebrations from home in Yishun.
Ms Ho previously worked in the education sector and moved to healthcare four years ago to "contribute in a different way". She is proud of how Singapore's healthcare workers have performed in the pandemic. She will take a short break from work today to receive the salute from the mobile column to essential workers at the Expo.
More than 50 IHiS employees are working on National Day.
"It is due recognition for healthcare workers," Ms Ho says of the salute. "(It) makes me feel like they mean it when they say they appreciate our sacrifice and the risk we are taking."