Singapore's private hospitals make room for more Covid-19 patients as cases rise

At IHH Healthcare Singapore, which runs hospitals like Mount Elizabeth Hospital, the number of Covid-19 beds has grown from about 30 in March last year to more than 200 presently. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE- As Covid-19 cases continue to pop up fast and furious and more end up in hospital, private hospitals are preparing to take in more Covid-19 patients to help ease the burden on the public healthcare system.

Some of them recently added more Covid-19 isolation beds, after having done so before around the middle of the year. The patients they take in are transferred from the public hospitals.

While the vast majority of the Covid-19 cases here are mild and can recover at home, the number of severely ill patients requiring hospital care has risen with the surge in daily infections.

Singapore is now seeing more than 3,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, after the cases moved past the 2,000-mark in late September.

At IHH Healthcare Singapore, which runs hospitals like Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital, the number of Covid-19 beds has grown "from about 30 in March last year to more than 200 presently", said its chief operating officer Noel Yeo.

He said Covid-19 patients are transferred to them from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases or other public hospitals.

The group has also ramped up the capacity at its Parkway Laboratories, which is helping to process Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests, he added.

Mount Alvernia Hospital is also preparing to take in more Covid-19 patients. It is vacating another medical-surgical ward to add 58 more beds for Covid-19 patients, which will bring such beds to 86 in total, said its chief executive James Lam.

Around the middle of the year, the hospital was asked by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to take in some Covid-19 patients transferred from the public hospitals. That was when it dedicated one ward that can take up to 28 Covid-19 patients, said Dr Lam.

He said the restructured hospitals here will send them Covid-19 patients who are typically mildly symptomatic.

They can be unvaccinated adults aged 50 and above, or young children aged one to four. The latter would be accompanied by family members, who may or may not have tested positive for Covid-19.

"Should any one of them turn very ill, we have in place an established workflow with MOH to seamlessly transfer them back to one of the assigned restructured hospitals to be cared for," said Dr Lam.

Meanwhile, Raffles Hospital is setting up a community treatment ward to care for recovering Covid-19 patients who will be sent to them, said Dr Kenneth Wu, deputy managing director of Singapore Healthcare at Raffles Medical Group (RMG).

This will be almost like a Covid-19 treatment facility (CTF), which the group is familiar with, having set one up at Connect @ Changi.

Dr Wu said they expect the Covid-19 patients at the treatment ward to be similar to those being cared for at the CTFs, except they will "additionally require support and assistance for mobility and activities related to daily living".

Over at Farrer Park Hospital, a spokesman said it is making preparations to allow them to take in Covid-19 patients, and this involves making sure there are enough nurses to care for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.

IHH Singapore and RMG said they do more than set aside beds for Covid-19 patients.

Dr Yeo said IHH Singapore has supported MOH in "almost every major Covid-19 effort throughout the pandemic" and continues to do so.

"While the going has certainly been tough, morale and the sense of camaraderie among our staff remain high because we recognise the importance of the work we do," he said.

Staff at Mount Alvernia have had to put in longer hours to care for Covid-19 patients, Dr Lam said.

"Cost has also gone up with the regular cleaning and disinfection performed as well as the deployment of more manpower at entry points and coordination of regular Covid-19 tests."

Dedicating 86 beds to Covid-19 patients may also affect the hospital's revenue, he said.

The delayed elective situation at public hospitals could have sent some business to private player Health Management International. Its executive director and group CEO Chin Wei Jia said the group's StarMed Specialist Centre is getting more calls and bookings for its radiology services. She said it has been scaling up its capacity over the past few months.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.