SINGAPORE - Individuals under 80 years old who want to get their Covid-19 vaccinations at polyclinics here will now have to book appointments to do so.
This is to allow the 23 polyclinics here to better handle patients with pressing healthcare needs, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (July 22).
The past two weeks have seen a significant increase in the daily average number of patients with acute respiratory infection - from Covid-19 as well as other infections - at the polyclinics, the ministry noted.
"Only seniors aged 80 years and above can continue to walk in to receive their vaccinations," it added.
Instead, members of the public are encouraged to go to any one of the 10 joint testing and vaccination centres (JTVCs) across the island for their vaccinations. No appointments are needed for these visits.
Meanwhile, adult emergency departments at public hospitals handled an average of about 2,500 patients per day over the past two weeks, up from the usual average daily load of about 2,000, MOH said.
The children's emergency departments at KK Women's and Children's Hospital and National University Hospital each saw an average of about 680 patients daily over the last two weeks, up from the usual average of around 450 per day.
About 40 per cent of these cases did not require emergency care, MOH said, adding that such cases at emergency departments divert medical care away from those who genuinely require urgent medical attention.
It urged the public to seek medical treatment at hospital emergency departments only for serious or life-threatening emergencies, such as chest pain, breathlessness and uncontrollable bleeding.
"This allows those with severe illness in need of emergency care to be attended to quickly and helps to preserve our hospital capacity for those who truly need acute hospital care," MOH said.
National University Health System (NUHS), which operates four hospitals and seven polyclinics in the west of Singapore, told The Straits Times that patients who require care will continue to be attended to.
However, it urged members of the public to visit general practitioners or 24-hour clinics for non-emergency cases.
“We seek the public’s understanding that longer waiting time is expected at our emergency departments and priority will be given to patients with more serious conditions and who require admission,” said an NUHS spokesman.
MOH added that while the greater attendance and longer wait times at emergency departments and polyclinics may frustrate some patients and their families, they should treat healthcare workers with respect, and not harass or abuse them.
In addition, MOH said that the Jurong and Yishun polyclinics, which currently offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, will offer only the Novavax vaccine from Aug 12.
The two polyclinics will continue to offer Pfizer-BioNTech jabs to those who wish to take the second dose of their primary vaccination series or booster shots until Aug 5.
Those who wish to get the protein-based Novavax vaccine – which was approved for use among those aged 18 and above here in February – can also do so at the JTVC in Bishan as well as at the 20 Public Health Preparedness Clinics here, the ministry added.