170 Covid-19 swab booths trialled at clinics participating in the Swab and Send Home programme

SINGAPORE – Compact, mobile and low-cost swab booths are being trialled at 170 Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) islandwide as part of efforts to ramp up testing for Covid-19.

The swab booths, known as Cosmo-Slim, were developed by local engineering company ATC, and sponsored by Temasek Foundation to support clinics involved in the Swab and Send Home (Sash) programme.

These clinics will be able to provide Covid-19 testing to patients with acute respiratory infection symptoms.

In a June 25 statement, the Ministry of Health said there are more than 900 PHPCs providing subsidised consultation and treatment for people diagnosed with respiratory infections, of which 400 are participating in the Sash programme.

Chief executive of Temasek Foundation Ng Boon Heong said that the ongoing trial for the swab booths, which began in end-July, has equipped PHPCs with safe and effective mobile swabbing capabilities.

“This allows general practitioners (GPs) (at the PHPCs) to be better protected while swabbing patients displaying symptoms of acute respiratory infections immediately at their clinic’s practice, without having to send them to another location,” he said.

Participating GPs have been encouraged to provide feedback after using the booths to help improve its design and functionality.

For instance, after taking into account feedback from the GPs, the booth’s design was made slimmer and more compact so that it could easily be pushed through clinic doorways.

Doctors are required to put on personal protective equipment when conducting the swab tests, and they are encouraged to use the booth outdoors, in quiet areas with low human traffic, or in a well-ventilated room inside the clinic.

Made of an aluminium frame and polycarbonate panels, the booth is lightweight so that it can easily be wheeled around.

Its panels are also made of a frosted material so as to ensure patient privacy.

Latex gloves are affixed to a panel separating the swabber from the patient, where doctors insert their hands to collect the swab sample from the patient.

Once the swab has been taken, all areas of the booth must be sprayed immediately with a 70 per cent alcohol disinfectant so as to prevent cross-contamination between patients.

As an added layer of safety, the booth has also been fitted with a self-disinfecting antimicrobial coating which lasts for around six months, though tests for the coating’s efficacy are still in the process.

Dr Teo Boon See, who was among the general practitioners who helped in the design of the swab booth, said having a booth at her clinic will make swabbing more convenient for her patients.

At the same time, it ensures that the staff involved will be protected.

“Sometimes, patients sneeze and cough as they are swabbed, so having a swab booth protects the doctor from coming into contact with their respiratory droplets,” said Dr Teo, who sees many elderly patients at her Camry Medical Centre clinic in Toa Payoh Lorong 4.

“When patients are swabbed at their neighbourhood GPs, they can return home to await their tests results instead of having to travel to other testing centres to get their swabs done, which brings them more convenience and also helps to keep the community safe.

“There’s also an added sense of comfort and familiarity for patients who may be squeamish about getting swabbed if it’s their regular GP who is the one administering the test,” she added.

The swab tests typically take around one to two days to process and patients are advised to stay home awhile awaiting their results.

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