Hospitals to defer non-urgent surgeries as TTSH battles spread of Covid-19 cluster

SINGAPORE – As the number of Covid-19 community cases here rises and the cluster at Tan Tock Seng Hospital grows, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has asked all hospitals to defer non-urgent operations and admissions for now, in order to conserve resources across the healthcare sector.

Non-urgent specialist outpatient clinic appointments will also be postponed.

The TTSH cluster formed last week after a nurse at the hospital’s ward 9D was confirmed to have Covid-19. Since then, another 34 people have been added to the cluster, and one of them, an 88-year-old patient who was at ward 9D, has died.

“No hospital is denying medical care to patients who need it,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday (May 3).

As a precautionary measure, however, hospitals may impose stricter triaging criteria for visitors, including asking visitors or those accompanying patients who had been to TTSH inpatient wards from April 18 to defer their visits.

“This is in the best interest and safety of patients and staff in the other hospitals, as the investigation of the TTSH outbreak is ongoing,” MOH said.

In its statement, MOH said that TTSH progressively ceased admissions of new inpatient cases from Sunday until further notice. All Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance cases will also be diverted to other public and private hospitals for the purpose of load-balancing, it added.

For patients requiring specialist outpatient clinic services, TTSH will defer the appointments of stable cases and initiate teleconsultation and medication delivery where appropriate. For patients requiring in-person care, TTSH will arrange for them to be seen by staff who are not linked to the Covid-19 cluster.

MOH said that it has worked with the public and private hospitals to increase their capacity as they help to take on some of the load.

Some hospitals have also started deploying doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to assist TTSH teams in caring for their existing patients, the ministry said.

These measures allow TTSH and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases to focus their attention on providing appropriate care to patients who are currently admitted, and to deal with the cluster of Covid-19 cases in the hospital.

MOH urged members of the public to visit the emergency department only for emergency and life-threatening conditions. These include persistent chest pain, breathlessness, sudden weakness and numbness, serious injuries and multiple trauma. Longer wait times are expected as other hospitals step up to support TTSH.

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