Hospitals to take on extra load, defer non-urgent surgical operations as TTSH cluster grows

The Ministry of Health has asked all hospitals to defer non-urgent operations and admissions for now.
The Ministry of Health has asked all hospitals to defer non-urgent operations and admissions for now.ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - As Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) goes into battle mode to contain a cluster that emerged from one of its wards last week, other public and private hospitals here are helping to take on the extra load diverted from TTSH.

In a release on Monday (May 3), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it has worked with the public and private hospitals here to make sure that patients requiring care will continue to be attended to. 

"The healthcare community has also worked together to reserve more beds to manage any potential increase in Covid-19 cases," MOH added.

To conserve resources across the healthcare sector, MOH has asked all hospitals to defer non-urgent surgical operations and admissions as well as non-urgent SOC (specialist outpatient clinic) appointments until further notice.

The hospitals will contact the affected patients about these deferments, MOH said. 

The TTSH cluster formed last week after a nurse at the hospital's ward 9D was confirmed to have Covid-19 on April 28. Since then, another 34 people have been added to the cluster, and one of them, an 88-year-old patient who was at ward 9D, has died.

The Health Ministry also encourages the use of teleconsultations and alternative care arrangements, where appropriate, until the current situation stabilises. "MOH reiterates that no hospital is denying medical care to patients who need it," it said.

However, as a precautionary measure, while investigation of the TTSH outbreak continues, other hospitals may ask visitors who have been to TTSH inpatient wards from April 18 to defer their visits, MOH said. 

It added that from May 2, TTSH has progressively ceased admissions of new inpatient cases until further notice. 

All Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance cases will also be diverted to other public and private hospitals for the purpose of balancing the patient load, it said. For patients requiring SOC services, TTSH will defer the appointments of stable cases and initiate teleconsultation and medication delivery where appropriate. 

For SOC patients who require in-person care, TTSH will arrange for them to be seen by staff who are not linked to the Case 62541 cluster. 

Some hospitals have started deploying doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to assist TTSH teams in caring for their existing patients, MOH said. 

These measures allow TTSH and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) to focus their attention on providing appropriate care for existing patients, and to deal with the cluster of Covid-19 cases in the hospital, the ministry said.

It urged members of the public to visit  the emergency department in hospitals only for emergency and life-threatening conditions. These include persistent chest pain, breathlessness, sudden weakness and numbness, serious injuries and multiple trauma.

“Longer wait times are expected, as other hospitals step up to support TTSH, and we seek the understanding and patience of Singaporeans,” added MOH in its release.