No visitors allowed at Tan Tock Seng Hospital amid investigations into possible Covid-19 cluster

People doing visitor registration at TTSH on Thursday morning, before the hospital announced it will no longer accept visitors to protect its patients and staff. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) will not allow visitors into its wards until further notice, following the discovery of a possible Covid-19 cluster at the hospital where a nurse, doctor and three patients tested positive for the virus.

"These are necessary measures to contain the situation and protect our patients and staff," said the hospital in a Facebook post on Thursday (April 29) afternoon.

"Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience and we thank you for your understanding."

The 46-year-old Filipino nurse was confirmed to be a community case on Wednesday, while the four others had been found positive in preliminary tests.

The nurse was deployed to Ward 9D, a general ward which had since been locked down following the infections. All patients had been swabbed and isolated.

But the hospital remained crowded when The Straits Times visited on Thursday morning, with many arriving for consultations and medical appointments, people in the emergency department and heavy footfall in the food court.

Many people said they were still there for regular appointments at the hospital's clinics.

One of them, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 62, was accompanying his father for a medical appointment on Thursday morning when he saw the news of the Covid-19 infections at the hospital.

He had not cancelled the appointment because he believes that TTSH would have kept the infections under control, he said.

Noting that both he and his father have been vaccinated, he said that this gave them both peace of mind.

The hospital had already tightened measures for visiting on Wednesday night, saying in an earlier post then that it would allow only two pre-registered visitors throughout a patient's stay.

Freelance producer Dorothy Goh, 30, who was at the hospital with her family members, was waiting to receive updates on her grandmother, who was in critical condition.

Calling the situation "very unfortunate", she added that she believed the hospital would be able to keep the infections under control and not have it spread beyond the affected wards.

TTSH had said on Wednesday that it will be swabbing all staff in the main hospital's ward block.

As of 6pm on Thursday, crowds at the hospital had thinned, given the restrictions to visiting warded patients. Seven visitors were seen waiting at the ward registration counter.

One woman told The Straits Times she was allowed to visit her husband, as he is an urgent case who is warded at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

This was also the case for one Madam Angrini, 45, who was at TTSH with her father to visit her younger sister, who was in the ICU following a mild stroke.

According to the pair, the hospital had advised them that a maximum of four family members are allowed to visit those in intensive care, with two visitors bedside at each point in time.

"I'm slightly worried about future changes, because a patient will need continuous help and support from his or her family members, especially when one is in critical condition," said Mdm Angrini, who is a teacher.

"At least there's some flexibility for patients in intensive care. Imagine if my sister is left alone, she would feel lonely."

A retiree who gave her name as Mary, 75, said she was at the hospital for an eye appointment.

"I'm not worried about the Covid-19 cluster because the affected patients are in the hospital block, not the clinic, (and) everything is going about as per normal," she said.

The Ministry of Health said on Thursday afternoon that there are now nine cases linked to TTSH, detected from the proactive testing of patients and staff in the affected hospital ward.

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ST understands that one of the patients found to have tested positive for the virus is a 72-year-old woman who had been warded at the hospital since April 20.

She had been admitted to Ward 9D - a C-class ward - for rheumatoid arthritis and developed a cough and fever on Sunday.

She was told by a doctor around noon on Wednesday that she had to go for a Covid-19 test because she had been having a fever for several days. The results came back positive at about 5pm.

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