SINGAPORE - Singapore will continue to expand its overall hospital capacity to care for the high number of severely ill Covid-19 patients, including collaborating with the private sector to increase beds and supporting the recruitment of foreign doctors and nurses, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary on Monday (Nov 8).
While the number of Covid-19 cases has remained stable, the cases in hospitals remain high, he added.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is continuing to increase the Covid-19 capacity in the private sector and Covid-19 treatment facilities and expects to have up to 4,000 beds by the end of November, up from 2,500 beds.
Less than half of the beds are currently occupied, said Dr Puthucheary.
Speaking at the press conference held by the multi-ministry taskforce on Covid-19, he also said there are now 280 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for Covid-19 patients, and 134 of them are currently occupied.
At the same time, there are "about 140 to 150 non-Covid-19 patients", he added.
The challenge clearly is the manpower and staff morale, as healthcare workers are understandably fatigued and "continue to be stretched", he said.
They have been managing a high workload, caring for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.
"Our public healthcare sector sees the majority of the elderly patients with comorbidities. It's resource-intensive. It's taken a toll on them," Dr Puthucheary said.
When cases stabilised slightly last week and hospital capacity was expanded, healthcare workers got a little bit of a breather, he added, but "they are worried and prepared for an increase in cases, should it come".
Dr Puthucheary said MOH is helping to augment hospital manpower by redeploying about 300 staff from swab operations to the Covid-19 treatment facilities and getting administrative staff to help with the admin roles of healthcare workers.
MOH is also working with the Manpower Ministry to ease the process of work pass renewals for foreign doctors and nurses, he added, noting that it will support efforts to recruit healthcare workers from overseas.
"We're also trying to find other ways to lighten the load and reduce staff burden, training more staff, training more volunteers, taking over basic patient care tasks so that our healthcare workers can concentrate on one of the most pressing needs at this point," he said.
MOH had also earlier said it would give a special Covid-19 healthcare award amounting to $4,000 each to staff in public healthcare institutions as well as community care organisations that deliver front-line healthcare services.
Dr Puthucheary urged people to do their part in supporting healthcare workers by giving them "the respect, the courtesy and the consideration" that they rightly deserve.
"Our healthcare workers are our last line of defence. We need to look after them, so they can look after us."
As at Nov 7, a total of 1,654 Covid-19 cases remain warded in hospital, of which 296 cases require oxygen supplementation in the general ward, 70 are unstable and under close monitoring in the ICU, and 64 are critically ill and intubated in the ICU.