SingHealth stepping up screening of patients and visitors; hospitals vigilant following TTSH Covid-19 cluster

A nurse who works at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and another eight patients and staff linked to her have been diagnosed with Covid-19. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - All SingHealth institutions will step up the screening of patients and visitors to their campuses, following the emergence of a Covid-19 cluster at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

In addition, those who had been admitted to TTSH recently will be subjected to secondary screening if they visit SingHealth institutions for treatment, said Professor Fong Kok Yong, co-chair of the SingHealth Disease Outbreak Taskforce, on Thursday (April 29).

"This measure is necessary for the safety of our patients and staff," said Prof Fong, who is also the healthcare cluster's deputy group chief executive of medical and clinical services.

Meanwhile, other hospitals here said they are staying vigilant as they continue with strict infection control and visitor policies as well as safe management measures, in keeping with the Ministry of Health's guidelines.

Many hospitals here currently allow each patients to have up to eight visitors a day, with only two visitors allowed to come to the ward at any one time. At public hospitals, children 12 years old and under are not allowed to visit.

A nurse who works at TTSH's Ward 9D, a general ward, was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Tuesday after she sought treatment for a cough, sore throat, and body aches. She was fully vaccinated. Following proactive testing of staff and patients at the ward, eight others have been diagnosed, including a doctor who attended to patients in the ward, a healthcare assistant trainee who was assigned to the ward, and six patients.

Prof Fong added that all SingHealth staff who are unwell, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, must not report for work and need to seek immediate medical attention at their staff clinic.

"Our clinical and operations teams are monitoring the developing situation closely, and we will proactively respond to the evolving needs."

Private hospitals are also taking precautions.

A Mount Alvernia Hospital spokesman said: "We stand guided and take instructions from MOH if there are any updates to guidelines or policies."

Infection control measures extend beyond the wards as well.

Farrer Park Hospital said it will continue to monitor the situation while sticking to strict infection-control measures for staff, visitors and patients.

"Staff with fever, breathlessness or flu-like symptoms are to seek immediate medical attention at the nearest Public Health Preparedness Clinic or Farrer Park Hospital's Emergency Clinic," said the hospital.

"All employees are required to mask up at all times, even when they are at their desk. They are also encouraged to go for lunch breaks individually to minimise risks of any possible transmission."

Eighty-five per cent of eligible staff from the hospitals under IHH Healthcare Singapore - which includes Mount Elizabeth Orchard, Mount Elizabeth Novena, Gleneagles and Parkway East hospitals - received the Covid-19 vaccine earlier this year, said Dr Prem Kumar Nair, chief executive of the healthcare provider.

There are currently fewer than 10 Covid-19 patients warded at hospitals under IHH Healthcare Singapore, which also includes Mount Elizabeth Orchard and Mount Elizabeth Novena.

At Farrer Park Hospital, about 93 per cent of the hospital staff have been fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The 46-year-old TTSH nurse had received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Jan 26 and the second dose on Feb 18. Experts said that although the Covid-19 vaccine is effective in preventing symptomatic disease for the vast majority of those vaccinated, it is still possible for a small number of vaccinated individuals to become infected.

Farrer Park Hospital also added that safe distancing measures in the hospital's lifts, which have been in place since the pandemic started, was removed earlier this week.

This is in line with the Building Construction Authority's advisory last October that the Government will not apply the 1m distancing in lifts in order to reduce the risk of overcrowding in lift lobbies.

The hospital said it continues to ensure that its lifts and lift lobbies are stocked with hand sanitiser.

A dedicated group of nurses and doctors is on standby to attend to Covid-19 patients, it added. They are to be wearing full personal protective equipment at all times, and regularly monitor their health and take down their vitals.

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