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Ong: S'pore riding Covid-19 wave without heightened measures

Ong: S'pore riding Covid-19 wave without heightened measures

Remember the burden of healthcare workers as the rest go about their lives normally, he says


For the first time, Singapore will be going through a wave of Covid-19 infections without heightened measures.


This means healthcare workers have primarily shouldered the burden, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday as he recognised and thanked the efforts of nurses at the Nurses’ Merit Award event held at Suntec.


“The only thing that we have implemented is for you to wear your masks indoors... We are still vaccinating but our coverage is already very high,” said Mr Ong.


He stressed that this current wave is an important juncture in Singapore’s journey towards living with Covid-19.


“In this Omicron wave, by and large, the burden falls on our hospitals, nurses and our medical personnel. I hope we all remember who is carrying that burden as the rest of Singapore go about their lives normally,” Mr Ong said.


“I believe there are good reasons, looking at the numbers, that the trajectory of the wave has almost peaked or is at its peak. I really hope from here, things will get better,” he added.


In his speech, Mr Ong noted the sacrifices nurses have made.


In 2020, as Covid-19 cases surged in the community, nurses were an integral part of the effort to increase isolation and intensive care beds in hospitals, and setting up community care facilities for patients with milder symptoms.


“You are the ones who kept these critical facilities running,” Mr Ong said.


Then when vaccines became available in 2021 and Singapore started its National Vaccination Programme, nurses helped run the vaccination centres, administer vaccines to millions of people, put at ease those who were nervous about the injections, and take care of those who felt unwell afterwards.


Said Mr Ong: “Today, over 93 per cent of our total population is fully vaccinated, and 78 per cent and counting have received their first boosters.


“Singapore has recorded one of the highest vaccine coverage rates in the world. It makes a huge difference in preventing infected individuals from developing severe complications from Covid-19 infections.”


During the Omicron wave this year, it was again nurses who took on the high surge in patient load.


“Nurses also bring something else that may not be so easily discernible, much less measured. Yet it is essential and irreplaceable – and that is human compassion,” he added.


“Not everyone can make a patient smile even at his lowest moments, or look into the future with optimism as he regains his strength.


“In a crisis as isolating as Covid-19, the human compassion of nurses is empowering, comforting and invaluable.”


Exceptional performance at work – 125 receive Nurses’ Merit Award


Principal nurse Sreevidya Jayacopalan often clocks nine hours of shift work a day, and returns home to her young children who would be asleep by then.


But in 2020, she did not hesitate to volunteer and join a medical team which worked at a migrant workers’ facility.


Decked in full personal protective equipment in the sweltering heat, the 37-year-old had to be on stand-by to perform swab tests as a wave of infections swept through the dormitories.


Yesterday, Ms Sreevidya was among 125 nurses who were presented with the Nurses’ Merit Award by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.


The award is given to nurses who display noteworthy and exceptional performance, participate in professional development, and contribute to raising the nursing profession.


Winners were given a medal to be worn as part of the nurse’s uniform and $1,000 in cash.


Ms Sreevidya, who works in the Care For Acute Mentally Infirmed Elders ward at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, looks after elderly patients with dementia.


When visitors were not allowed into the hospital, she set up videoconferencing sessions for the families and patients, including those who felt insecure and lonely.


When some foreign nurses returned home and others were infected by Covid-19, the ward often had only two nursing staff to handle about 11 patients.


Advanced practice nurse Lim Tien Joo, 45, was also among those who received the award.


Mr Lim, who works at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), had to manage patients who were not allowed to leave their wards amid the pandemic.


To introduce patients to technology and other activities during Covid-19, Mr Lim used a videoconferencing platform to let patients from different wards interact with one another.


Mr Lim, who has been with IMH for 22 years, said: “Despite all the challenges, every nurse continues to care for the patients to their best ability.”


Senior staff nurse Joel Quek, 32, had to put on hold his advanced diploma studies in nursing for critical care and return to the front line when Covid-19 hit in 2020.


Working in the intensive care unit at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, Mr Quek looked after Covid-19 patients.


To avoid putting his friends and family at risk, the 32-year-old limited his interactions with them.


“This imposed a sense of loneliness. But ultimately it was for the greater good,” he said.


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Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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