S’pore hospitals to defer non-urgent clinical services, start preparing more ICU beds for Covid-19 amid rise in cases

Hospitals were advised to gear up preparation, such as by putting some of their reserve beds on standby.
Hospitals were advised to gear up preparation, such as by putting some of their reserve beds on standby.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Hospitals in Singapore have been instructed to defer all non-urgent elective clinical services and to start preparing to have more intensive care unit (ICU) beds for Covid-19 amid a rise in cases. 

The Ministry of Health announced 568 local cases of Covid-19 on Friday (Sept 10). This is compared with the 216 local cases reported on Sept 3, and 120 local cases on Aug 27.

Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Friday: “This doubling of new local cases weekly reflects an ongoing community spread of Covid-19 that has taken place as we lightened the community restrictions, after our phase two (heightened alert) phase and allowed more social interactions to take place.”

On the number of ICU beds for Covid-19, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 that Singapore can go up to 1,000 ICU beds if needed, a figure he has mentioned previously. 

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was health minister before Mr Ong, added that ramping up ICU beds for Covid-19 would involve converting existing beds and deferring elective clinical services so hospital resources can be focused on dealing with coronavirus cases.

Mr Ong said that as the move involves severe degradation of hospital capacity, the aim is to avoid getting into such a situation. 

He added: “But what we can cope with now, is we can ramp up to close to 300 quite readily. That will be the capacity we are working with now.”

As at Friday, 689 cases are currently warded in hospital. There are currently 25 cases of serious illness requiring oxygen supplementation, and six patients are in critical condition in the ICU.

Associate Professor Mak said at the press conference that those who are vulnerable to severe infections, or those who live with a vulnerable family member, should exercise caution and cut down on social activities or at-risk activities.

He said: “This call not to be complacent is important because we need to ensure that we always have sufficient resources to treat those who are severely infected, and who have a need for the limited and precious resources we have in our hospitals.”

He added: “We ask for the public’s cooperation and understanding, if, as a result of these changes that we’ve had to make in preparation, it leads to some delays or prolonged waiting time for some of the clinical services and treatments to be given to those who do not have urgent medical conditions."

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