Coronavirus: Nursing homes step up measures to protect residents

Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home at 1 Thomson Lane. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE- A major nursing home operator, Econ Healthcare Group, has from Wednesday (April 1) barred family members from visiting residents unless the resident is critically ill.

This comes after an 86-year old resident of Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home at 1 Thomson Lane was on Tuesday (March 31) confirmed to have Covid-19. This is the first known case of coronavirus infection at an old-age home in Singapore.

The home announced on Tuesday night that it has since conducted thorough cleaning and disinfection of the patient's ward and affected areas, and is barring visitors from both its Thomson and Silat homes until April 30.

Mr Ong Chu Poh, chief executive and chairman of Econ, said the company had discussed the notion of prohibiting visitors for some time.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Econ, which operates seven nursing homes in Singapore with 795 residents, has stepped up its precautionary measures in line with guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

Its residents have their temperatures taken twice daily, and every four hours for those having a fever, said Mr Ong.

Econ has also implemented social distancing measures at its homes, with residents' beds now spaced at least 1m apart, while residents are also seated further apart from each other during mealtimes.

All social activities, usually conducted by community volunteers, have been suspended.

Exercise sessions are conducted on a one-on-one basis where possible, or if conducted in a group, participants are spaced out from one another.

Said Mr Ong: "The public must know the seriousness of Covid-19. We are together looking after their loved ones. I want to urge people to work closely together to fight Covid-19."

His is not the only nursing home operator to have stepped up measures in recent weeks.

Orange Valley, which operates five homes across Singapore, has barred all face-to-face visitations and is only allowing communication with residents to be conducted via telephone or video calls.

At Methodist Welfare Services' (MWS) nursing home in Choa Chu Kang, clinical and non-clinical staff have been segregated, and telecommuting has been also been implemented.

MWS' management is also looking into additional measures, such as further staggering of work hours,extending its telecommuting arrangements and a review of visitation arrangements.

Said Ms Diana Ooi, head of MWS' Choa Chu Kang home: "We will continue working with the authorities to ensure the safety of our residents and staff, and to safeguard their well-being. We urge those who have contact with residents of nursing homes to be socially responsible."

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