Families worried about clusters at residential care homes
Experts say widespread community transmission means it is inevitable clusters will form there
She used to visit her father every day at lunchtime after he was warded at Ren Ci Nursing Home in Ang Mo Kio in July.
But that routine ended when in-person visits to all residential care homes were suspended on Monday following a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases among staff and residents of aged care facilities.
The 50-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Ms Coco, told The New Paper yesterday: "I was already worried about not being able to see my dad every day. So when I heard there were Covid-19 clusters at nursing homes, my anxiety grew."
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced two new clusters at residential care homes, taking the number of clusters at these homes to four.
The two new clusters at Jamiyah Nursing Home in West Coast and Orange Valley Nursing Home in Simei both have 13 cases each. All the cases at Orange Valley are residents while the Jamiyah Home cases include 10 residents and three staff.
This comes after a cluster at All Saints Home in Jurong East was announced on Tuesday. The transmission resulted in 12 cases as at yesterday. Of these, 10 are residents and two are staff.
The first among the nursing homes clusters announced on Monday was Ren Ci Nursing Home in Bukit Batok. The cluster has since grown to 32 cases, with 23 residents and nine employees, including a cleaner.
In an update on Tuesday, Ren Ci said that all 20 residents who tested positive had been transferred to various hospitals for closer monitoring.
On Sunday, MOH announced the suspension of in-person visits to all residential care homes for a month until Oct 11, starting Monday, after it detected 42 cases across 18 aged care facilities and providers over the last two weeks.
Ms Coco, who is unemployed, said her father was warded at the Ren Ci nursing home in Ang Mo Kio after a fall in March. She is worried for her father's health, even though he is fully vaccinated.
"I just hope that even stricter measures will be put in place to prevent the number of clusters from growing," she added.
Mrs Angeline Theng, whose husband, 77, is residing at Lions Home For The Elders in Bishan after a fall in January, is also worried, but for a different reason.
The elderly man, who is unresponsive and in a semi-conscious state, also has dementia.
Said Mrs Theng, a retired education officer, 77: "I can't help but worry that my husband will forget me before visits resume. Phone calls and video calls are just not the same as being there at his bedside."
Following the outbreak of cases, Ren Ci Nursing Home and All Saints Home said they have conducted and completed deep cleaning and disinfection of affected areas.
A spokesman for All Saints Home told TNP it has also been updating its residents' next of kin regularly. Family members can contact their medical social worker to make an arrangement to facilitate video calls with their loved ones, he added.
A spokesman for the Agency for Integrated Care said it will support nursing homes to implement more frequent testing for staff by distributing antigen rapid test kits to them, so that infections can be detected earlier.
Experts that TNP spoke to are not surprised that clusters have formed at such care homes.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist from Rophi Clinic, said: "If hospitals could not prevent clusters with measures that are even tighter and more controlled than in nursing homes, what makes people think that clusters cannot form in nursing homes?"
Dr Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia-Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said the widespread community transmission over the past few weeks made it inevitable that clusters would form at nursing homes.
He said nursing homes are a hotbed for infections due to the vulnerability of the large number of seniors living there.
"The key here is that the elderly people need to be adequately vaccinated so that even if they are infected, the majority of them will not be severely ill or die," he said.