‘Haven’t seen the light of day in ages’: Pressure on healthcare workers as COVID-19 cases rise

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With the increase in local cases of COVID-19, some healthcare workers say they are now being pushed to the limit.

“We’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for the past two years, but I don’t think the situation has gotten as bad as it is now,” said Jessica (not her real name), who works as doctor in a public hospital.

“Every time we hear that hospitals will increase the capacity of beds and intensive care units, it gives us the impression – where do you think this workforce is going to come from?”, A- she declared.

“At the start of COVID-19 we went through all this mess where our annual leave (days) got canceled and sometimes we couldn’t take weekends off until further notice,” she said. . “If the going gets really crazy, then we might see him again. “

Jessica said she hasn’t had a day off for almost three weeks.

All overseas travel requests have also been suspended by MOH Holdings, a move that has sparked even more discontent among staff, health workers told TSTIME.

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MOH Holdings is the holding company for the public health clusters of Singapore National University Health System, National Healthcare Group and Singapore Health Services.

“With the opening of the traffic lanes, many of us are upset that we have recently been banned from all travel until further notice,” Jessica said.

NOT ENOUGH MANPOWER

Last year, the number of nurses in Singapore fell for the first time in at least 15 years.

There were 42,096 nurses in 2020, 572 fewer than the previous year, according to the Singapore Nursing Board annual report.

The Health Ministry said last week it would bring in more manpower by reaching out to people registered with the Singapore Healthcare Corps, as well as nurses registered with the Board of Nurses but not in active practice.

So far, around 900 people have come forward in response and will gradually be referred to public hospitals to be associated with appropriate roles, the ministry said.

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Tan Tock Seng Hospital also launched a new para-nurses initiative in September to increase its staff. About 150 non-nursing staff will be trained to perform essential low-risk nursing tasks, such as measuring patient vital signs and supporting bedside care.

These employees will support nurses in their work, allowing them to focus on clinical patient care.

But increasing the number of doctors and nurses in intensive care units and high dependency units may not be that simple, said a doctor working in the infectious disease department of a public hospital. He requested that his workplace not be identified to protect his identity.

“Now that the number of cases has increased so much, they are adding bed capacity, but it’s not that easy for the workforce … there aren’t many around us,” did he declare.

“So we have no choice but to stretch out and just take more patients.”

Repeated calls for more manpower earlier this year had mostly gone unnoticed by his hospital management.

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“I kept telling the hospital management that things would only get worse and asked if we could get more manpower, but the feeling I had of them was reluctant to provide that, ”he said.

“It wasn’t until things started to boil over that they started to listen to us and opened up more services and (added) more manpower.”

HPITAL IN CONSTANT FLOW STATE

Beyond staff shortages, healthcare workers have also had to deal with changing COVID-19 protocols in hospitals.

“It’s extremely frustrating because things change every day,” Jessica said. “A neighborhood can be referred to as a COVID-19 neighborhood one day, only for it to change the next day. You also have wards that are constantly opening or closing, as well as changes in the frequency of patient swabs and the safety measures that we must adhere to.

“So we have to keep up with all of these changes, and it’s just more confusion and more paperwork for us, besides caring for the patients.”

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