Ease Covid-19 brakes, but keep tabs on Singapore’s healthcare system: Experts

March 16, 2022

SINGAPORE – The daily number of Covid-19 cases peaked about three weeks ago and has since declined, but public hospitals are still seeing a heavy load of patients, experts said.

Indeed, there is always a lag of about two weeks for the situation in hospitals to catch up with the peak of notification of the number of cases.

Healthcare workers are also dealing with a growing number of non-Covid-19 cases that have piled up, given the focus on coronavirus patients over the past two years.

National Center for Infectious Diseases Executive Director Leo Yee Sin said the current strain on the healthcare system also comes from other diseases.

“We need to look at the totality of essential services currently within the health system. How can we meet the needs of all patients in need, regardless of Covid-19? ” she says.

Professor Leo was one of three panelists who spoke on Tuesday March 15 during Covid-19 restrictions: when can they be eased further? discussion moderated by The Straits Times and held at SPH Studios in Toa Payoh.

She noted that many of Singapore’s earlier healthcare protocols were based on the disease patterns seen in the Delta variant. When the less severe variant of Omicron When they emerged, these protocols led to significant numbers of patients being admitted to hospital when they might have been better off recovering at home.

But Professor Leo added that most hospitals have reorganized to better care for patients infected with the new variant.

For example, many hospitals are now caring for patients in clustered facilities, which means housing multiple Covid-19 positive patients together, instead of isolating them individually.

Most hospitalized patients with Covid-19 now tend to be older and have other conditions such as stroke or heart disease, she said.

She added that it will be necessary to balance the needs of the health system with those of other sectors as Covid-19 cases decline.

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Professor Dale Fisher, senior infectious disease consultant at the National University Hospital, and infectious disease expert Teo Yik Ying agreed it was important to keep tabs on the healthcare system.

Still, there can be a relaxation of safe management measures without serious impact on the system, they added.

What is important, however, is that Singapore must be prepared for a return of restrictions if the situation worsens.

Professor Fisher said the hypothesis is that the measures help control the number of cases in a major way. But he argued they can, in fact, be phased out without affecting hospitals.

He added that people are unlikely to be happy with being allowed to have only five visitors to a household at a time, and wondered if having 10 people vaccinated together in one place “would really destroy hospitals”.

“People’s psyches, I think, will benefit a lot from not having to wear a mask when you’re outside and being allowed to have 10 people at your house for a birthday or for Christmas or Chinese New Year. .”

Most hospitals have reorganized to better care for patients infected with the Omicron variant. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

During the session, moderated by ST’s senior health correspondent Salma Khalik, Professor Fisher said healthcare workers also wanted their lives outside of work to return to normal.

“Vulnerable people – there is no doubt that they exist. They will get Covid-19 just like people get the flu and get a serious illness,” he said.

“We knew from the trials that the vaccines weren’t 100% effective, so we always expected that. Part of the future has to be – how do we protect these individuals without impacting society as a whole? »

Professor Teo, who is dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said the decision to ease Singapore’s Covid-19 measures depends on the preparedness of the health system, as infections will definitely go up once. the authorities do.

But he predicted that most of the existing measures in place to curb Covid-19 will be relaxed this year.

Professor Fisher said Singapore should always be ready to step up measures if cases spike and hospitals begin to fill up again in the future due to new variants of concern or waning immunity.

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