Coronavirus: Singapore

Team converts NUH wards as Covid-19 ebbs and flows

In February last year, National University Hospital's (NUH) department of operations support services quickly converted normal wards into pandemic wards for Covid-19 patients.

The team's engineers, operational and security staff helped convert five general wards into pandemic wards. Three were reconverted to general wards subsequently, while two remained.

When the Covid-19 cases surged this year, the three general wards were again converted to pandemic wards. These wards house Covid-19 patients, and their conversion involves ensuring that the air supplied to and directed from it does not mix with that of other wards.

Twenty general rooms were also converted to isolation rooms last year, with three more converted this year.

Mr Andy Tan, 55, director of the operations support services at NUH, told The Sunday Times that it is imperative for the pressure regimes to be controlled in all isolation rooms. "This is to keep the Covid-19 virus contained and to prevent contaminants from migrating from the isolation room to the corridors or other areas of the hospital."

Under his supervision, engineers ensure that the air within an isolation room is extracted and cleaned by air filters.

Mr Tan, who joined NUH in November 2019, said ward conversions need to be done quickly and accurately. "Sometimes when there are more admissions, ward conversions are required immediately - even in the middle of the night. The situation is always fluid, so we need to be nimble and adapt quickly," he added.

Mr Tan manages about 200 staff in the operations support services department at NUH with eight team leaders. They help to escort Covid-19 patients from wards to treatment areas and ensure equipment in the hospital such as security systems and ventilators are working properly.

Acknowledging staff fatigue as the workload increases, Mr Tan said: "We ensure our staff are given time to recharge, whether it is in the form of short breaks during shifts or taking days off. I think this is important because the Covid-19 journey will be long, but I believe the team will get through it together."

Nadine Chua

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 14, 2021, with the headline 'Team converts NUH wards as Covid-19 ebbs and flows'. Subscribe