TTSH stops taking in new patients, defers appointments

It also moves some appointments online in bid to contain Covid-19 cluster, save manpower

People queueing for Covid-19 tests at the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. The four screening centres offering free swab tests to people who may have been exposed to individuals in the TTSH cluster saw long lines on Monday, but
An empty visitors' registration area at Tan Tock Seng Hospital yesterday. The hospital and its surrounds were quiet when The Straits Times visited late yesterday morning. At least one facility - The Cardiac Centre - was shut, and many vacant seats remained in the foodcourt even during the peak lunch hour.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
People queueing for Covid-19 tests at the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. The four screening centres offering free swab tests to people who may have been exposed to individuals in the TTSH cluster saw long lines on Monday, but
People queueing for Covid-19 tests at the former Da Qiao Primary School in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. The four screening centres offering free swab tests to people who may have been exposed to individuals in the TTSH cluster saw long lines on Monday, but were relatively quiet yesterday morning. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) stopped admitting new patients yesterday, in an effort to conserve manpower and focus on containing the Covid-19 cluster that has emerged there.

It has also begun to defer medical appointments and move them online, as the cluster - Singapore's first in a hospital - now numbers 40 people, including staff, current and former patients, and visitors.

The hospital and its surrounds were uncharacteristically quiet when The Straits Times visited late yesterday morning.

​At least one waiting area of a specialist outpatient clinic was shut when The Straits Times visited in the late morning, and many vacant seats remained in the foodcourt even during the lunch peak hour.

Another eatery, Toast Box, was also closed until further notice "in the interest of our customers and staff", a notice on the outlet's shutters said.

"It's much quieter than when I last came here three months ago," said a 76-year-old seeking outpatient treatment at TTSH, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tay.

"At that time, you couldn't even find a place to sit down."

The cluster was discovered after a nurse in the hospital's Ward 9D tested positive for Covid-19 last Tuesday. An 88-year-old patient in the cluster, who was in the ward, has died.

On Monday, the Health Ministry said other public and private hospitals will help take on the extra load as TTSH focuses its attention on dealing with the Covid-19 cluster and caring for its current patients.

To conserve resources across the healthcare sector, all hospitals have also been asked to defer non-urgent operations and admissions, as well as non-urgent specialist outpatient clinic appointments, until further notice.

Four screening centres have also been set up to offer free swab tests to people who may have been exposed to individuals in the TTSH cluster.

These centres saw long lines on Monday, but were relatively quiet yesterday morning.

Checks at several other hospitals found that some had put extra precautions in place, but they did not seem noticeably busier.

For instance, the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) put up notices reminding staff not to dine at all food and beverage outlets across the campus.

"This is to reduce cross-interaction with visitors and patients, and minimise the risks of Covid-19 transmission," it said.

One woman at SGH, who wanted to be known only as Shan, told ST that she had wanted to reschedule her mother's appointment.

"We wanted to defer the appointment (in the light of the current Covid-19 situation) but felt it was a little last minute to do so," said the 36-year-old, adding that she was planning to make the visit quick, and to leave promptly.

Elsewhere, visitors said waiting times were normal and hospitals appeared to be operating as usual.

"Everything's quite fast, quite normal," said insurance agent Eugene Tan, 45, who had taken his mother to the National University Hospital for an appointment.

"It's about as busy as it was half a year ago, I would say.

"There are safe distancing measures to ensure people are 1m apart, and now they are asking everyone if they've been to TTSH."

• Additional reporting by Cheryl Tan and Joyanne Li

Correction note: This story has been edited for accuracy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'TTSH stops taking in new patients, defers appointments'. Subscribe