Supporting the Covid-19 front line: Tireless effort behind the scenes

Behind the fleet of front liners caring for Covid-19 patients is an army of supporters who are less visible, but equally important in the war against the pandemic. The Straits Times finds out how various departments in four hospitals have been assisting patients behind the scenes while battling their own challenges, from manpower shortages to export restrictions.

Tireless effort behind the scenes

Environmental service associates Irme Mohd Zakwan (above), Roslina Muhammad and Indo Rani Marimuthu at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Mr Irme and Ms Roslina, both Malaysians, stayed back here to continue working amid the pandemic, and have not returned home. PHOTO: KHOO TECK PUAT HOSPITAL

On top of having to work more intensively during the Covid-19 period, environmental service associate Roslina Muhammad, 44, had an added emotional burden.

Since Malaysia’s lockdown in March, the Malaysian, who works at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), has been separated from her 22-year-old daughter back home.

She was among the many Malaysians who used to commute to Singapore daily for work.


Racing against time to secure essential drugs

Principal pharmacist Chong Yi San, 41, getting the medications for outpatients at TTSH’s pharmacy. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

In March, when countries started to implement lockdowns due to the surging pandemic, the procurement team at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s (TTSH) pharmacy scrambled to secure medicines before exports were disrupted.

Thus began their race against time to avoid medicine shortages and ensure sufficient Covid-19 drugs – not just for TTSH, but for other hospitals as well.

“Even as we placed orders with the vendors, there was no certainty that the drugs would come in, until they reached our doorstep,” said Ms Chong Yi Mei, 35, senior pharmacist from healthcare logistics firm Alps who is based in TTSH’s pharmacy procurement and supply chain unit.


Converting facilities at short notice

Technicians using tape as safe distancing markers in the pharmacy at Singapore General Hospital last Tuesday.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Before Chinese New Year, Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) department of facilities management and engineering (FME) was activated to transform the hospital into an outbreak-ready zone.

Within two days, staff had to convert the ambulatory surgery centre into an extension of the emergency department to hold patients with coronavirus symptoms.

As the pandemic surged, they converted a multi-storey carpark into a fever screening area.


Ensuring flow of supplies to hands that heal

Storekeeper Nazarudi Mohd Abi wrapping supplies to prevent spillage during transportation. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Tucked away in a basement at the National University Hospital (NUH) is a warehouse that stores more than 2,600 types of medical supplies and gowns for healthcare staff and patients.

The less visible materials management department has been more busy over the past seven months, delivering trolley loads of supplies to clinics and wards daily, and managing supply chain shocks.

Thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment were used by the hospital each day during the peak of the pandemic, almost three times their normal usage rate, said Mr Kenny Tang, 46, head of the department.


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