SINGAPORE - Singapore General Hospital (SGH) began its mandatory antigen rapid test (ART) operation for certain visitors on Monday (June 21) by focusing on registered caregivers.
In the morning, The Straits Times observed that several visitors who showed up for testing at SGH's Bowyer Block were turned away by hospital staff.
SGH later told ST that it was conducting the tests with registered caregivers first.
Ms Sandra Aw, head of visitor services at SGH, said: "Caregivers will progressively be notified via SMS to undergo the test."
SGH's current ART centre can conduct up to 200 tests a day, she added.
Some registered caregivers were also turned away because they had shown up before receiving the go-ahead to do so.
An Indonesian domestic worker, who told ST that she is a registered caregiver, said she was denied entry when she went to SGH's ART centre at 2pm because she had not received the SMS alert.
The woman, who wanted to be known only as Ms Anna, 37, said she was notified an hour later and went for her test.
The whole process was quick, lasting about 20 minutes, and did not cause much discomfort, she said in Mandarin.
The move to test visitors to hospitals comes amid a broader nationwide push to use tests like ART as a tool to contain the spread of Covid-19.
While most visitors to hospitals will still not be able to stay past the 20-minute time limit, MOH recognises exceptional circumstances where hospitals may wish to exercise discretion to allow visitors to stay for longer periods, particularly visitors of three categories of patients.
These are patients who are critically ill, birthing or post-partum mothers, and patients who require additional care support, such as those with mental disabilities.
Visitors involved in caregiver training will also be allowed to stay beyond the maximum duration of 20 minutes after clearing an ART.
MOH said the ART must be performed on the day of the visit, and may be administered by hospital staff or done by the visitor himself if it is supervised.
Those who can produce their own negative ART or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result obtained within the past 24 hours, or those who can produce a Covid-19-positive PCR test result issued within the last 270 days, may be exempted from the testing.
Results from self-test kits will not be allowed, said MOH. Tests must be administered by hospital staff or under their supervision.
In SGH's case, upon clearing the test, the visitor will be given a sticker and can then proceed to the ward to visit the patient.
Other hospitals that ST contacted said they will also be offering the tests, with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital saying it rolled out the tests on Monday.
Alexandra Hospital, Farrer Park Hospital and IHH Healthcare Singapore, which operates the Mount Elizabeth, Mount Elizabeth Novena, Gleneagles and Parkway East hospitals, said they will begin the mandatory ARTs on Tuesday.
Dr Noel Yeo, chief operating officer at IHH Healthcare Singapore, said: "While our hospitals are not eligible for free ART test kits from MOH, we will waive the costs of providing and administering these tests to support safe visitation at the hospitals."