Clinics are seeing rise in number of patients amid Covid surge

They include those who test positive on DIY test kits, those with fever and respiratory symptoms

General practitioner (GP) clinics and private medical providers that perform swab tests have been seeing a surge in patient numbers amid record-high Covid-19 community cases in recent days.

The patients include those who have tested positive for the coronavirus on their self-administered antigen rapid test (ART) kits, patients with fever or mild acute respiratory infection symptoms and those who have received health risk warnings or alerts from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

For a month now, Crossroads Family Clinic in Tampines has been seeing more patients - an increase of at least 50 per cent, said the clinic's director and family physician, Dr Quah Soon Wee.

He said that there has been a surge in Covid-19-positive cases detected by the clinic since a week ago, consistent with the rise in local community cases.

At Northeast Medical Group's clinics, the number of patients with fever or upper respiratory-related infections has risen by 20 per cent over the past two weeks, said the group's chief executive, Dr Tan Teck Jack.

The surge comes as the number of local Covid-19 cases hit more than 1,000 daily on Saturday and Sunday, before dropping slightly to 910 cases on Monday.

MOH had earlier urged patients with mild acute respiratory infection symptoms to avoid seeking treatment at hospitals and instead go to Swab and Send Home clinics.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post on Sunday that hospitals' emergency departments and general wards are coming under pressure.

To cope with the increase in patients at clinics, doctors are urging patients who need to be swabbed to call the clinics in advance.

Dr Quah said: "My advice is this: If your family member has Covid-19 and you are showing symptoms, or your ART is positive, it is responsible to call the clinic in advance so that the clinic can advise on the best time to head down, when there are fewer or no patients."

To prevent any spread within the clinics, patients who tested positive in their self-administered ART are given priority, said the GPs.

Doctors and staff are taking things in their stride. Parkway Shenton's medical director Edwin Chng said: "We work extra hard and sometimes beyond the clinics' operating hours and into the staff lunch hours. As we run walk-in GP clinics, we cannot turn patients away."

Dr Lee Joon Loong, medical director of Paddington Medical Clinic in Bedok, said: "It has been challenging. Even after clinic operating hours, patients still call the clinic, and we still attend to them."

GPs also have to manage the anxieties of patients with positive ARTs who go to the clinics to get their confirmatory polymerase chain reaction swab tests.

Most of these patients are worried about accidentally putting their loved ones and close contacts at risk, said the GPs.

Dr Lee said: "Our medical team knows and understands the anxieties of testing positive in an ART, and that is why, even if the clinic is closed, we still try to answer calls from all patients... We have been receiving more inquiries and clarifications from patients on what to do."