Tan Tock Seng Hospital boosts efforts to support well-being of staff

The TTSH cluster emerged after a nurse tested positive for Covid-19 in April.
The TTSH cluster emerged after a nurse tested positive for Covid-19 in April.PHOTO: TTSH

SINGAPORE - Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has stepped up efforts to provide support to staff, who have been under pressure to contain the Covid-19 outbreak at the hospital.

These include forming a support team for patients and staff who had to be quarantined, mobilising trained welfare officers, and conducting workshops and online learning modules to promote mental health among the staff.

The TTSH cluster emerged after a nurse tested positive for Covid-19 last month. This is Singapore's first hospital cluster.

Associate Professor Habeebul Rahman, chairman of the hospital's well-being committee, said one of the biggest challenges when news of the cluster broke was being separated from the approximately 1,000 staff members who were quarantined.

"We had to deal with a significant loss of manpower, and needed to shuffle (staff) around to ensure patient care was managed, while keeping up the morale of staff that were under quarantine order," said Prof Habeebul.

"When your own staff and friends are suddenly affected by something unknown, it can hit home quite strongly."

A dedicated team was quickly formed to care for the well-being of staff under quarantine, by directing them to helplines for emotional support and retrieving items for staff' to quarantine facilities.

Prof Habeebul said the hospital was in a better position to respond to the cluster after dealing with the pandemic for more than a year. "It felt like a confident crisis response," he added.

For instance, welfare officers had been appointed in each department over the last year to look after the well-being of the staff.

An app named BotMD was also available for the staff since March last year to access mental health modules, where they could plot their mood graphs and chat with the bot to navigate feelings of distress.

The staff themselves have come up with ways to boost morale. Prof Habeebul said a group of nurses under quarantine had come together online to do activities such as zumba over Zoom and virtual Mother's Day celebrations.

Beyond mental health, TTSH has worked to support staff who have had trouble finding a place to stay.

With help from the Health Ministry, the hospital has partnered with hotels to provide alternative accommodation for staff, with accommodation costs supported by TTSH, said Mr Dominic Tung, assistant director for human resource wellness.

Mr Tung said Grab came forward to offer an on-demand service, known as GrabCare, to ferry staff to and from TTSH with the guarantee that bookings would not be cancelled. There have been about 1600 sign-ups for GrabCare so far.

This comes amid reports of the staff being shunned by members of the public and denied services. "We recognise that there may be initial fear amongst members of the public or service providers... We take these risks and reactions in our stride," said Mr Tung.

But there have also been efforts from the community to show appreciation for TTSH staff.

Central Singapore Community Development Council and bubble tea brand Gong Cha are giving all 12,000 TTSH staff members appreciation packs which include a free drink voucher from Gong Cha.

Ride-hailing service Gojek will also distribute ride vouchers worth $10 each to hospital staff.

Prof Habeebul said: "I think what was truly heartwarming for us was that very quickly other members of public came in to offer their support and the next thing we know, we've got goodwill pouring in.

"Letting (TTSH staff) know that the rest of the country was behind them was very helpful."