Younger, fully vaccinated Covid-19 patients should recover at home amid strained hospitals: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – While the overall intensive care unit (ICU) capacity is holding up, Singapore healthcare system’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments, as well as general wards, are “coming under pressure”, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Sunday (Sept 19).

“Our hospitals and healthcare workers cannot be overburdened. At this point, this is MOH’s biggest challenge and we are doing our best to solve this,” Mr Ong said in a Facebook post, adding that this is why younger, fully vaccinated people are being encouraged to recover at home.

His comments come a day after the Ministry of Health (MOH) said some public hospitals here have been experiencing a surge in patients who have rushed to their A&E departments with mild respiratory infection symptoms.

Although MOH did not specify which hospitals it was referring to, public hospitals had put up announcements last week alluding to the situation.

Last Tuesday, Singapore General Hospital put up a Facebook post saying it was seeing a high number of patients at its emergency department, and said priority would be given to the critically ill.

“If your condition is not critical, please seek medical attention at a general practitioner (GP) or polyclinic,” said the hospital.

The National University Hospital put up a similar post on Friday.

The next day, MOH urged those who have mild symptoms to avoid seeking treatment at the hospitals and consult a GP at a Swab and Send Home clinic instead.

“This allows those with more severe illnesses and who are in need of urgent care to be attended to quickly and helps to preserve hospital capacity for those who truly need hospital care,” said MOH.

Mr Ong and the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 that he chairs have repeatedly said a key measure of Singapore’s fight against the coronavirus is whether its hospital system can cope with the number of cases.

In his post on Sunday, Mr Ong also highlighted data from MOH that showed the chance of someone infected with Covid-19 coming down with severe illness depends heavily on age and vaccination status.

For instance, from May 1 to last Thursday, no one fully vaccinated and under the age of 70 had been admitted to ICU or died from Covid-19.

The data also showed that 0.38 per cent of fully vaccinated patients in their 70s had either been admitted to the ICU or died from the disease. This was a lower rate than for unvaccinated patients in their 30s, of whom 0.84 per cent had been admitted to the ICU or died from the disease.

Mr Ong also noted that more than 98 per cent of those infected from May 1 to last Thursday had either no or mild symptoms, and tended to remain that way until recovery.

“That is why we are encouraging younger, fully vaccinated people to recover from home, and admit patients to community care facilities instead of hospitals, and also setting up more community care facilities, which will be ready this coming week,” he wrote.

“This is so that hospital beds (and) A&E services go to those who need it most.”