'Dire conditions' in AMK Covid-19 community care facility: Ministries say most issues resolved

Images and videos shared by a Facebook user taken at the former Ang Mo Kio Institute of Technical Education. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM MIN CHAN/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Most issues arising from poor living conditions at a Covid-19 community care facility (CCF) in Ang Mo Kio had been resolved several weeks before a Facebook post slammed the "dire conditions" there, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the ministries said on Monday night (Oct 4) that "the well-being of our migrant workers is important to us" and that they had recently inspected the facility for those recovering from Covid-19 at the former Ang Mo Kio Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

It was established that the rooms had basic amenities and were generally clean at the time of inspection, said the ministries.

"MOH will continue to work with the managing agent to continually improve living conditions at the facility", said the joint statement.

These include providing more amenities and improving communication with the residents.

On Saturday, a Facebook user named "Min Chan" wrote that her friend - who she said is a work permit holder living and working here for over eight years - had tested positive for Covid-19 and had mild symptoms. He was ordered to quarantine at the facility.

Describing the meagre conditions in the facility, she said: "Rooms are dark and lit only by what sunlight permeates the structure. Beds are thin foam mattresses, with no blankets. No tables, chairs or personal lamp is provided. Cold packaged food is delivered to the room and left on the floor at mealtime."

"The images and videos I've received have stunned me," she said, adding that on arrival, her friend's bed was covered in hair from a previous occupant. Used earbuds, food wrappers and other rubbish were strewn around the room.

The lack of doors also meant that rooms and occupants got wet during heavy thunder storms, she said.

Poor communication on discharge eligibility delivered by different staff has led to mixed messages on when recovered residents were allowed to leave, she noted.

One of the videos she shared on Facebook shows staff dressed in personal protection equipment directing large crowds of residents for tests or at mealtime with little or no safe distancing observed.

The occupants her friend encountered were work permit holders from China or India, she mentioned, adding that the only information she could find about quarantine online concerns luxury hotel premises for Singaporeans and expats.

One of the videos shared on Facebook shows staff dressed in personal protection equipment directing large crowds of residents for tests or at mealtime with little or no safe distancing observed. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM MIN CHAN/FACEBOOK

She said: "This is Singapore. And I am ashamed of it."

Addressing her claims about poor living and sanitary conditions at the quarantine site, the ministries said a ground operations team is reviewing some of the issues, and has taken immediate steps to address them such as through infrastructure improvement to prevent rainwater splattering during heavy downpours, procurement of more fans, and installation of more container toilets.

Meanwhile, they said that mattresses and surrounding areas at the facility are thoroughly disinfected after every discharge of a patient, and that clean bedsheets, pillow cases and blankets are issued to every person under isolation.

On the issue of cold food, the ministries said meals are centrally distributed for efficiency and to ensure that the meals are hot.

They added that every block is currently equipped with eight washing machines to facilitate washing needs. A care hotline is also available for patients who require mental health assistance.

"The managing agent is looking into working with a non-governmental organisation to keep the migrant workers engaged," they said.

They added: "In addition, we will conduct inspections at other CCFs to ensure standards are upheld. We will also encourage residents to give us feedback through existing channels, such as through the managing agents of the CCFs, or the FWMOMCare mobile application (an app to monitor foreign workers' health status) for migrant workers, so that we can better address their needs."

On May 25, MOH had announced that it activated the facility at Ang Mo Kio as an added buffer for contingencies, should there be a need to increase CCF capacity when Covid-19 cases surge.

Following the ministries' response, the Facebook user wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday that "from accounts on the inside, it seems things have not changed".

When contacted, the Facebook user declined to comment further out of concern that doing so would have a negative impact on her friend's livelihood.

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