Staff at Alexandra Hospital explain urgent need to adapt amid Covid-19
Staff members at Alexandra Hospital explain the urgent need to adapt since the first Covid-19 case
The past two months have been a psychological test for some of the staff members of Alexandra Hospital (AH) as much as a physical one.
They have been in epidemic-fighting mode since the first Covid-19 case hit Singapore on Jan 23. They have had to set aside fears of infection and have not been able to let their guard down.
From doctors and nurses to housekeepers and facilities management, those entering isolation rooms need to don personal protective equipment (PPE), a process that involves much time and care.
Staff members working in extended screening areas, where patients with respiratory infections or fever of unknown causes are seen, have to endure even more heat stress as they need to put on additional layers of PPE.
With a new wave of imported cases driving infection numbers up, Dr Keith Ho, head of AH's urgent care centre (UCC), told The New Paper earlier this month that border controls have gone some way towards reassuring front-liners.
AH was already on alert when the first cluster of cases detected in Wuhan were reported at the start of the year, and it was told to open its two isolation wards once the first cases were confirmed here.
At the time, one of the wards was closed and the other was undergoing renovations.
But various teams worked overtime to commission 23 negative pressure rooms within a week. Meanwhile, teams were reshuffled and roles redefined.
Doctors, nurses and other employees not covering the isolation wards pulled extra duties to cover for those dealing with the outbreak, while support staff scaled up their services.
Said Dr Ho: "Everyone was scrambling a bit because we were changing gears. It was not our daily work, but with time, we coalesced into a proper operating framework.
"We were all very apprehensive because this is a novel disease. We needed to be refreshed on the procedures. It is more stressful psychologically than physically."
He recalled a junior doctor who was worried after he did a swab on a patient who tested positive. AH made plans to get a hotel room for him so he could isolate himself from his family.
"We really felt there was a lot of support from the hospital in terms of the fight that we had on the front lines," said Dr Ho.
Dr Louisa Sun, associate consultant of infectious diseases, said hospital staff remain vigilant as changes have been rapid during the outbreak.
"This has been a very massive job on our UCC colleagues' part. They're doing a very good job in keeping up with what are the true suspect cases," she said.
Ms K. Nitiah, an assistant nurse clinician at AH's UCC, said: "(It is about being) psychologically prepared to handle Covid-19 patients."
Senior nurse clinician Ooi Gaik Bee added: "Fear is something all of us experience."