Nursing homes to test all residents, maintain separate zones to prevent spread of Covid-19


Containment measures are in place to prevent more staff and residents being infected.
Containment measures are in place to prevent more staff and residents being infected.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Dividing premises into distinct zones for staff and residents and testing for all residents are some of the measures nursing homes have adopted to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

This comes as the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported on Tuesday (Sept 28) that five more seniors aged between 69 and 79 had died from Covid-19 complications, and more senior centres reported new cases in the last week.

On Tuesday, MOH reported a total of 11 Covid-19 cases at Man Fatt Lam Elderly Joy Day Centre in Bedok, while Windsor Convalescent Home in Pasir Panjang reported 39 cases and Woodlands Care Home in Woodlands had 24 cases.

Cases were also reported at Orange Valley Nursing Home in Simei and Jamiyah Nursing Home in West Coast about two weeks ago.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) said nursing homes have stepped up the frequency of Covid-19 testing for their staff from once every two weeks to twice a week.

"Nursing homes have also begun testing for all residents from Sept 27 as an additional safeguard. Frequent testing will enable any infection to be detected earlier and managed," AIC added.

To limit the spread and impact of Covid-19 within nursing homes in the event of a positive case, nursing homes have divided their premises into distinct zones.

Residents and staff are assigned to a zone and must stay within that area, with no intermingling across zones.

While residents diagnosed with the infection are mostly taken to hospitals for treatment and close monitoring, AIC said that suitable residents may be admitted to MOH's community treatment facilities that provide "more comprehensive medical coverage than nursing homes, and can manage seniors who are stable or have mild symptoms".

Containment measures are also in place to prevent more staff and residents being infected, such as an incident response team, which comprises the nursing home, along with public health, laboratory and hospital partners. The team works to detect, ring-fence and care for Covid-19 cases.

If staff members become infected and are placed in quarantine, the Government said it would help bring in more manpower to ensure services are not disrupted in affected homes.

AIC said affected nursing homes can also tap the #StrongerThanBefore fund for their expenses.

"This fund helps community care providers defray additional operational costs incurred as a result of the heightened precautionary measures required. This includes the need for increased cleaning and disinfection of the premises," AIC said.

The Government has also been working closely with nursing homes to facilitate vaccination for seniors. Vaccinations are carried out by either the home's nursing team or by mobile vaccination teams.

As at Sept 24, 80 per cent of residents in nursing homes have received both doses of the vaccine, while 90 per cent have received the first dose, AIC said.

The agency supports about 14,000 residents across 80 nursing homes.

AIC urged all unvaccinated residents to take the jab as soon as possible as they are among the most vulnerable and the vaccine can increase their protection against severe illness.

"For residents and next of kin who are still uncertain about taking the vaccination or booster shot, nursing homes will continue to engage them on a regular basis, and to address any further questions they may have," the agency added.