Coronavirus: Almost all GPs given 2 weeks' supply of masks, gowns and gloves, says Health Ministry

A healthcare worker at Northeast Medical Group, one of the clinics designated as a PHPC, on Feb 18, 2020. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - More than 95 per cent of general practitioner (GP) clinics in Singapore have been given two week's supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns and gloves, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The distribution began last Saturday (Feb 15) and arrangements had been made to resupply GPs after this round of distribution, it told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Feb 19).

On Tuesday, the Government had activated about 690 of the clinics, designated as Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs), to better detect and manage the coronavirus outbreak.

These clinics on the PHPC network provide subsidised treatment, investigations and medication during outbreaks. People with respiratory symptoms such as cough, fever and sore throat pay $10 at most for treatment.

Clinics and clinic chains on the network interviewed by ST said they were anticipating more patients in the coming days.

They, however, expressed concern over a lack of PPE for healthcare workers in the network.

A spokesman for Parkway Shenton, which runs 39 PHPCs, said on Wednesday that while its healthcare facilities maintain a "healthy stockpile" of supplies to deal with a sudden surge in demand, their use of PPE had risen significantly owing to extra precautionary measures being taken following code orange in Singapore.

"It is also much harder under the current situation to secure new shipments of medical supplies. Certain PPE items like masks, goggles, face shields and protective gowns, which are necessary to keep our front-line healthcare workers safe, are now in short supply," he added.

Dr Tan Teck Jack, medical director of Northeast Medical Group, which has nine clinics in the network, said there was an "acute shortage" of PPE the week before.

In the last few days, however, sufficient stocks were delivered to his clinics to last about two weeks.

"Over the weekend, ST Logistics was open for us to collect the PPE ourselves, and (together with MOH), they've also been delivering them round the clock to clinics," he added.

The ministry said all healthcare institutions have infection control measures in place to manage suspect cases adequately, and that GPs had been given guidelines on the appropriate use of PPE in various scenarios, including when dealing with suspect cases.

It added: "GPs play a critical role in detecting and managing patients at the front line. MOH will continue to work with our GP partners to ensure they have sufficient supplies of PPE to manage suspect cases."

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