Hougang nursing home staff soldiering on despite surge in Covid-19 cases and curbs

About 85 per cent of the residents at Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home are vaccinated. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

SINGAPORE - Staff at Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home in Hougang are soldiering on despite the challenges brought on by the surge in Covid-19 cases in the community, said the home's chief executive Ardi S. Hardjoe.

Mr Ardi said that most staff are working longer hours, doing 12-hour shifts, and staying away from social gatherings in their free time to avoid being infected.

"By now, our staff know the drill when it comes to precautions," he said.

The nursing home, which has 150 staff members and roughly 270 residents, has not had any Covid-19 cases recently. However, it has put in place strict measures to safeguard the seniors. Staff members are assigned to distinct wings with no intermingling between the groups.

"We have a seven-storey facility and all non-clinical staff on the first floor have been asked to avoid going to the upper levels. Staff and residents in the wards have been segregated into separate zones so there is less likelihood of spread of infection," he said.

Staff are also adhering to different precautionary measures depending on the time they spend with residents. Cleaners put on N95 masks while nurses who are in direct contact with the seniors don full personal protection gear.

The home will be organising antigen rapid tests (ART) for all its residents in the next few weeks, while staff will undergo both ART and polymerase chain reaction tests.

About 85 per cent of the residents at Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home are vaccinated and Mr Ardi said that the home is working with the Ministry of Health to give booster shots to the residents over the next few weeks.

The home has also advised residents' next of kin who are eligible for booster shots to get the jabs by Oct 11, when the suspension on visitations to nursing homes is expected to be lifted.

Like many nursing homes here, Mr Ardi said that Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home is most concerned about service disruptions in case its staff members test positive and are issued quarantine orders.

"We are currently running at full capacity, and if we have a manpower shortage, it could cause the system to break down," he said.

The Agency for Integrated Care and Health Ministry have said that they would help boost manpower at nursing homes where staff have been placed on quarantine so that services are not disrupted.

While the nursing home ensures staff receive overtime pay for their longer shifts and have enough rest, the restrictions have taken a toll on their mental health, especially among those who reside in the home's dormitory, said Mr Ardi.

He said: "We have asked them to avoid big groups and social gatherings, and not to mingle with healthcare workers from other nursing homes."

While the home previously housed about 100 staff members in the dormitory, the number has been reduced to 50 to adhere to safety precautions and ensure enough room between staff.

Mr Ardi added: "It can be stressful working amid these conditions, so the nurses may feel better when they step out and see people going about their lives in the community.

"For those in the dormitory, conditions are not as homely. They cannot enjoy even something as simple as cooking a meal they like as they have to depend on catered food. Overall, it can be quite depressing but, for now, the staff are soldiering on."

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