Life goes on amid regular checks at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home following coronavirus cluster links

Once the first coronavirus case was detected at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home on March 31, all staff at the Thomson Lane home were immediately quarantined.
Once the first coronavirus case was detected at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home on March 31, all staff at the Thomson Lane home were immediately quarantined.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home has had 16 infections and one death

When Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home confirmed its first coronavirus infection on March 31, all other residents of the home were also tested.

Tests have since been conducted regularly to detect Covid-19 in a resident as early as possible, said Mr Then Kim Yuan, administrator of the home in Thomson Lane.

On Monday, three more female residents of the home tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases linked to the cluster at the home to 16.

Experts have said that while young people can also fall severely ill from the coronavirus, evidence so far indicates that seniors remain the most vulnerable group.

Several measures taken in Singapore have been targeted specifically at seniors. Activities for seniors were suspended on March 10, and since the emergence of the cluster at the home, visitors are no longer allowed at all nursing homes until the end of the month.

One of the cases at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home - an 86-year-old resident - died of complications due to Covid-19 last Friday. She is one of six people aged 64 and above who have died of Covid-19 here. A 32-year-old Indian national was yesterday confirmed to have the virus after he died. The cause of death is being investigated.

Mr Then told The Straits Times the close-knit community at the home is devastated by the resident's death.

The home has conveyed its condolences to the family of the resident, who began living there in 2014.

Once the first case was detected, all staff at the Thomson Lane home were immediately quarantined.

The home is continuing to operate with the assistance of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Agency for Integrated Care, which have sent professionals with experience in geriatric care from other nursing homes and community hospitals - known as the United Nursing (UN) team - to the home to provide support. Tan Tock Seng Hospital is also helping to review cases of potential infection at the home.

Some staff have been transferred from Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home's other home in Silat Avenue to help the UN team in Thomson. The 111 residents across both homes receive round-the-clock geriatric care from resident doctors, nurses and staff.

Mr Then said: "It is unfortunate for the outbreak to happen anywhere and the suffering, as well as the feelings of fear and uncertainty, is very raw and real."

It is an immense challenge for Mr Then, who has been working in an official capacity at the home for 15 years, although he spent time there for most of his life.

His grandmother, Madam Lee Ah Mooi, started the home in the 1960s as a nursing home for retired samsui women. Mr Then is the third-generation custodian of the home.

As a child, he would play with his siblings and cousins in the home's corridors and befriend its residents.

The community's solidarity and trust are what keeps the home going, said Mr Then.

MOH has provided the home with additional personal protective equipment (PPE) at regular intervals. All staff are now in full PPE at all times. The home's vendors have prioritised deliveries of medical supplies.

In keeping with its ethos of community service, the home is setting up a donation fund to subsidise costs for families of residents, and to ensure it is well stocked.

"A lot of our residents do not qualify for government-funded homes but also cannot afford the more expensive profit-driven private homes. We want to ensure we can provide quality and personalised eldercare. We would like to raise funds to help them as much as we can as per our philosophy," said Mr Then.

"It is my obligation and responsibility to continue the legacy and help as many people as possible."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2020, with the headline 'Life goes on amid regular checks at old-age home'. Print Edition | Subscribe