COVERING THE PANDEMIC

World News Day: All hands on deck at Singapore's public hospitals

ST correspondents have covered the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore and the region with news reports, analysis, graphics, videos and webinars. Here’s a sampling.

As the number of suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases grew, NCID senior consultant Monica Chan managed to see her two young daughters for only about half an hour each day before they slept.
As the number of suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases grew, NCID senior consultant Monica Chan managed to see her two young daughters for only about half an hour each day before they slept.ST FILE PHOTO

At the heart of the battle against the Covid-19 outbreak, Singapore's front-liners were put to the test as coronavirus patient numbers swelled and hospital beds filled up at alarming rates after the Republic's first case emerged on Jan 23.

From daily press briefings to treating patients in makeshift open-air "consultation rooms", medical professionals went out of their way to adapt to fears and precautions around the virus.

In February, The Straits Times did a special report on Singapore's efforts to tackle the outbreak, showcasing the efforts of doctors, nurses and officers on the front line and the scientists racing to find a vaccine.

At the heart of the battle, the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), where most coronavirus patients have been taken, senior consultant Monica Chan reflects on what it has meant to her family.

Since late January, as the number of suspected and confirmed cases grew, Dr Chan has managed to see her two daughters, aged nine and 11, for only about half an hour each day before they sleep.

When she is unable to do so, she stays in touch with them through video call.

A check of Singapore's public hospitals shows the challenges and fears faced by healthcare staff in the line of duty, who put in extra work hours as days turn into weeks and possibly into months.

Dr Chan says it can take five to 10 minutes to put on the gear, which includes an N95 mask, a visor, a gown and gloves, and another five to 10 minutes to remove it very carefully.

"We minimise unnecessary entry into a patient's room, and so it's probably twice a day," she says.

 
 
 

She adds that despite the preparations, when the first patient at NCID tested positive in a preliminary test on the evening of Jan 23, it was "anxiety-provoking". It was about 5pm when the medical team received the results and they had to go back to the ward to announce the news.

In the wards, they monitor each patient closely, as a patient's condition can worsen at the end of the first week, when shortness of breath can progress quite rapidly, Dr Chan says.

"I'm never sure what the day will bring because you don't know where the next new patient will be found, and whether there will be an increase in the number of patients coming in," she says.

• Read the full report, which ran on Feb 16, online at https://str.sg/JGfU

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2020, with the headline 'All hands on deck at public hospitals'. Subscribe