170 clinics extend operating hours for 2 weeks as Covid-19 cases surge

The extension of operating hours for two weeks comes amid surging Covid-19 cases. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Some 170 Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) have answered the call to extend their operating hours for two weeks amid surging Covid-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Thursday (Feb 24).

MOH had announced on Tuesday that those who require medical attention should consult a primary care doctor first, rather than rush to the emergency department at hospitals, unless they are experiencing an emergency.

To spread out peak patient load at private clinics, the ministry said that from Friday (Feb 25) to March 10, selected PHPCs will operate up to 11pm on weekdays, from 2pm to 5pm on weekend afternoons, and up to 11pm on weekend evenings.

The list of clinics providing the extended hours, which is being updated progressively, can be found on this website.

In his Facebook post, Mr Ong said that MOH provides a grant to the general practitioners (GPs) that extend their operating hours.

"I received a text today, informing me that one of the GPs has decided to pass the grant to his five staff, to recognise their hard work.

"With everyone chipping in, we can all be assured that we will ride this Omicron wave and emerge stronger as one integrated healthcare system," he wrote, thanking all primary care clinics.

The healthcare sector has been under severe pressure lately, with staff struggling to cope due to the Omicron wave, insufficient rest, flu season and resignations.

Doctors at some of the PHPCs that chose to extend their hours had earlier told ST they were taking measures such as hiring more staff and getting existing staff to work extra shifts.

Some of the doctors said they were aware that extending their hours would mean further stretching their already taxed resources, but they were doing so as they felt it was their duty.

On Thursday, MOH said the extended operating hours will kick in on Friday. Acknowledging that the clinics are already dealing with a heavy load, MOH said the PHPCs that agreed to extend their hours have done so in an encouraging show of support.

"We are appreciative of those who have stepped forward thus far, and hope more will continue to do so," said the ministry.

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