COVID-19: Essential healthcare services to continue during elevated safe distancing measures period

(From left) Mount Elizabeth Novena hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital. (Yahoo News Singapore file photos)

SINGAPORE — Essential healthcare services will continue to operate during the period of elevated safe-distancing measures in Singapore from 7 April to 4 May.

On the other hand, all non-essential health and medical appointments should be deferred, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a media release on Saturday (4 April).

The ministry defines essential services and procedures as those which, if not provided or performed, would result in significant or rapid deterioration of the patient’s medical condition, and potentially threaten their health and well-being.

It said that all public and private acute hospitals (including offsite specialist clinics and offsite Ambulatory Surgical Centres), community hospitals, polyclinics, Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) and renal dialysis centres will remain open during the four-week elevated measures period.

Supporting services such as ambulance and patient transport, blood services, laboratories and radiological services, quarantine and isolation operations, and border health operations will continue operations.

Essential supply chains required to provide the essential healthcare services should also continue operations.

Residential and home-based community care services such as nursing homes, psychiatric rehabilitation homes, psychiatric sheltered homes, inpatient palliative care, home medical, home nursing, home palliative care, interim caregiver service, and meals delivery services will continue to function.

Clinics may remain open only for essential services

Non-PHPC general practitioner clinics, specialist clinics, dental clinics and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics may remain open only for the delivery of essential services.

For these healthcare institutions, any on-site staffing must be kept to a minimum. Where possible, services that are suitable for tele-consultation should be delivered remotely.

Examples of non-essential services are:

  • Aesthetic services

  • Outpatient rehab/ therapy services and other allied health services such as dietetics, counselling, social work, psychologist and podiatry.

  • Community Nursing

  • Stable sports medicine-related conditions

  • Elective joint replacement surgeries for stable joint arthropathies

  • Elective eye procedures including cataract surgeries for stable cataracts

  • Skin conditions which are stable on long-term follow up

  • Stable ENT conditions and elective ENT procedures such as septoplasty

  • Screening/surveillance services including scopes

  • Stable renal stones with no recurrent symptoms

  • Other TCM services, including acupuncture

Senior care centres, rehab centres, day hospices to close

Home personal care will be scaled down to serve only seniors with inadequate family support, for example, where caregivers are essential workers. Home therapy (except by tele-consult) and Medical Escort and Transport service will also be suspended.

Senior care centres, day rehab centres, psychiatric rehabilitation centres, and day hospices will be closed. Selected centres will remain open to support those with inadequate family support, as well as intensive care needs. Such seniors can also be supported with home care services including meals delivery if needed.

Blood donation services will remain in operation, and residents are encouraged to continue donating blood during this period. As part of the additional precautions put in place for safe distancing, donors are highly encouraged to make appointments for their blood donations. Visit Health Sciences Authority's website for more information.

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