New Covid-19 community care facilities to be set up for stable patients with underlying conditions

The NTUC Health Nursing Home in Tampines will be the first stepped-up community care facility for Covid-19 patients. PHOTO: NTUC HEALTH/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A new category of community care facilities will be set up for Covid-19 patients who are generally well but have underlying health conditions that require closer monitoring.

The move is aimed at augmenting hospital capacity, so that only Covid-19 patients who need close and specialised medical attention - such as oxygen supplementation or intensive care - will be hospitalised, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Sunday night (Sept 19).

The first stepped-up community care facility (CCF) for Covid-19 patients will be at the NTUC Health nursing home in Tampines. It will start operations on Thursday with 250 beds.

Several CCFs - which take in mildly ill patients - will also have a proportion of their beds converted to stepped-up types.

They include the CCF at the Singapore Expo's Connect@Changi, which is run by Raffles Medical and aims to provide 50 such beds by Friday.

Patients who will be cared for at stepped-up CCFs include elderly people who are stable and mildly symptomatic but have chronic illnesses such as cardiac, neurological or respiratory ones.

While these elderly patients are not at a high risk of deterioration to the extent of requiring oxygen supplementation or intensive care, they will need closer monitoring of pre-existing medical conditions and for any early signs of clinical deterioration, MOH said.

At these stepped-up facilities, patients will get "more comprehensive medical coverage", the ministry added. It said that the stepped-up facilities will have more medical and nursing staff.

Infected nursing home residents will be prioritised for admission, in order to prevent further spread in such facilities.

All patients whose conditions worsen will be taken to hospital for further care.

At the NTUC Health nursing home in Tampines, existing residents have been transferred to other branches, with alternative arrangements made for those awaiting admission to the home.

"We thank the families and next of kin of the nursing home residents and NTUC Health for their understanding and cooperation in facilitating this shift to meet a national need," MOH said.

With more Covid-19 patients requiring transport to CCFs, MOH will also start round-the-clock services. It asked for patients' understanding and cooperation to stick to allocated timings, even if these are "later in the night".

People with mild symptoms should not go to accident and emergency departments in hospitals, but instead consult a general practitioner at a Swab and Send Home clinic, the ministry said.

Some CCFs that currently take in mildly ill patients, including Connect@Changi at Singapore Expo, will convert a proportion of their beds to stepped-up CCF beds. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Those who have tested positive for Covid-19 but do not have symptoms should stay at home. If they begin to feel unwell, they should consult a doctor via telemedicine.

They should go to the accident and emergency department only if advised to do so, or if they have severe symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath.

"This is to prevent fruitless trips to the accident and emergency departments which may inadvertently increase the risk of them transmitting Covid-19 to the others in the community," MOH said.

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