COVID-19 SPECIAL

Urgent bid to free up capacity at public hospitals in Singapore as Covid-19 cases surge

The Singapore Expo is being turned into a facility to care for Covid-19 patients.
The Singapore Expo is being turned into a facility to care for Covid-19 patients.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore Expo is expected to receive its first batch of Covid-19 patients, who are either recovering or have mild symptoms, on Friday (April 10) as efforts to free up capacity at public hospitals become more urgent.

Transfers of recovering patients from public to private hospitals have been made on an almost daily basis since late last week, The Straits Times has learnt.

At the Singapore Expo, one hall will house those in recovery while another hall will be for patients with a mild case of the disease.

These would be newly diagnosed patients who may be cared for at the facility until they are discharged or have to be moved to the hospitals if their condition worsens.

The new facility is the second such here. It was less than three weeks ago that patients recovering from Covid-19 were first moved from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) to two private hospitals as well as D’Resort NTUC, which can accommodate 500 people.

While Covid-19 can spread quickly, about 80 per cent of the cases are mild, which has led countries such as Britain, Austria, Germany, Spain, China and Malaysia to repurpose exhibition halls into temporary hospitals to house patients.

The number of new infections in Singapore has risen significantly in the past two weeks or so. There were 142 new cases reported on Wednesday – close to the total of 150 cases here on March 8.

There are now 1,623 cases: 669 in public hospitals, including 29 who are critically ill; 542 in private hospitals and D’Resort; and 406 who have been discharged. Six have died.

NCID first moved 20 patients to Concord International Hospital on March 20, and then 56 patients to two Parkway Pantai hospitals – Mount Elizabeth and Gleneagles – in the following week to free up beds for more severe cases.



Workers moving what appears to be cabinets into Singapore Expo Hall 3 on April 6, 2020. 
ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
 

The patients who were transferred were all stable and recovering, but as they harboured the virus, they needed to be isolated.

Such patients cannot leave the ward or have visitors. All staff taking care of these patients are not allowed to serve patients in other parts of the hospital, said Dr Noel Yeo, senior vice-president for hospital operations in the Singapore operations division at Parkway Pantai. He said they have discharged 24 patients and taken in more.

 
 

NCID transferred seven patients to Mount Elizabeth and 18 to Mount Elizabeth Novena yesterday. It had already moved five patients to Mount Elizabeth on Monday and eight on Sunday.

The three Parkway Pantai hospitals are now caring for 74 Covid-19 patients, of whom 70 are in recovery. The remaining four include two previously reported Indonesian patients at Gleneagles, one at Mount Elizabeth and one at Mount Elizabeth Novena. They were tested at the Parkway Health Lab and found to have Covid-19.

Mount Alvernia Hospital first chipped in to receive 15 patients – all aged below 30 with mild symptoms and in recovery – from NCID in two batches on Thursday and Friday last week. It received four more on Tuesday from the National University Hospital and 16 who were moved from NCID on Wednesday.


The Singapore Expo Convention Hall and Exhibition Centre is being turned into a facility to care for Covid-19 patients. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Concord International Hospital, which has discharged 10 patients, has also quickly filled its two-bedders in a sealed-off ward with a fresh batch of 10 infections from NCID on Wednesday.

 
 
 

Given the expected rise in cases, these private hospitals are prepared to continue caring for recovering patients. Concord International chairman Yap Yaw Kong said they are working closely with the Health Ministry and NCID to receive new patients when they discharge existing ones.

Mount Alvernia has dedicated space to care for up to 40 clinically well Covid-19 patients, said a spokesman.

Parkway Pantai is prepared to care for more recovering cases and has carved out space at its fourth hospital, Parkway East, where patients will be housed on a different level from the maternity ward.

Another private hospital, Farrer Park, has reserved an entire ward of 26 beds on one floor for Covid-19 patients and expects to receive them in the next few days.