In Parliament yesterday, Janil Puthucheary shares why we cannot just “open up”.

By November 1, 2021Current, Featured
Janil Puthucheary

TL;DR – We risk having the number of cases shoot up. More cases = more in ICU = more deaths that could have been prevented.

Halloween might be over but for many healthcare workers, they are not seeing any light to this horror by the name of Covid-19. It has been 5 weeks since we entered the Stabilisation Phase. It feels like forever since I hung out with a group of friends to dine out ☹ There are people calling for us to “open up” come what may, and then there are the ones who are calling for stricter lockdowns. Hello people, balance ok? It’s not just lives, but also livelihoods at stake! Think of your taxi drivers, your CBD food stall owners, workers in the aviation and hospitality industry, the list goes on… If you ask me, I say we just open up lah, if not people gonna say “Gahman say endemic, then Uno-reverse”. The thing is while all of us might be feeling some level of covid fatigue, there are consequences to just “opening up” freely! Hear it from Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Health Janil Puthucheary… In Parliament on 1 November, he shed some light on our situation, he also explained why we can’t just “open up” and risk cases shooting up.

Here are some sobering details he shared… We summarised them into 12 easy-to-digest points for you, here:

  • The proportion of COVID-19 cases requiring ICU care is at about 0.3% today. Even though this is still only a small proportion, it translates to a large absolute number of ICU patients when case numbers are high, and will place a serious strain on our ICU capacity.
  • Yes, our hospitals are feeling the manpower crunch. Over 20 months of battling against the pandemic. A large proportion of our healthcare workers have not had the opportunity to take leave since 2020. (?!?!) Morale is slipping, not surprisingly..
  • There will come a point where even as the healthcare professionals are trying their best, more patients will die. ☹

“It feels like what started as a 2.4k run became a marathon, and just as we are reaching the finishing line, we have to run a second marathon. Our people are exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally – whether they will admit it or not.”

  • Resignation rates have gone up. (Say real, how many can tahan the mental, emotional and physical stress…) Foreign nurses too have resigned in bigger numbers, with the travel restrictions.
  • MOH is actively redeploying manpower, to serve as healthcare or patient care assistants.
  • MOH has also been trying to set aside more beds for Covid-19 patients.
  • Counselling services, staff helplines, and peer support programmes for healthcare workers by our public healthcare institutions.
  • Logistically, we can keep stepping up our ICU beds. But not enough people. But as we increase beds, we stretch and stretch our healthcare workers. We will come to the point that they will no longer be able to provide that continuous excellent care. ☹
  • The booster dose has helped in reducing severe illnesses among vaccinated seniors, but the unvaccinated continues to be at risk. This is why the situation needs to be monitored very closely.
  • Thankfully, because of our high vaccination coverage, about 99% of cases, have had no or mild symptoms. We have also managed to keep our fatalities very low. But of course, every death is a painful loss ☹
  • Our healthcare system is stressed, but it has not been overwhelmed, unlike many countries last year, where patients had to be turned away and doctors had to choose amongst many patients whom to save. (Shudders…)
  • What we are trying to do has not been done yet by any other country. We are trying to get to the point where the combination of high vaccination rates, booster jabs and even more boosting from mild infections means that COVID 19 will no longer spread as an epidemic here. Nearly every other country that has arrived at that destination has paid a high price, in lives. (Here, PM Lee says we are trying to keep the “human cost” as low as possible)

A bit lorsoh (longwinded), but hope Janil’s explanation has helped you to understand why although Gahmen says we are living with COVID-19, we cannot just suka-suka open up. We really cannot risk having the number of cases spike out of control… U see, more cases will mean more ICU beds used. This comes to a certain point where people are forced to accept a lower standard of care, and then you have more deaths that could have been prevented. Every.single.death. is a deep loss, not just a statistic!

One of the lowest case fatalities in the world today

One fact remains though, we have one of the lowest case fatalities in the world today. If you think this is by chance, think again. It happened because Singaporeans stood together, and we have a world-class healthcare system and resources to fight this pandemic. Because of that, ICU teams don’t have to worry about resources and equipment at the very least. But manpower, that’s something the Gahmen is doing its darndest to resolve. ☹ Healthcare workers who are facing issues can approach their union, MOM or MOH for assistance.

What can you and I do?

Claps, care packs and bubble tea deliveries aside, what else can you and I do to help our healthcare workers who have given everything, and more, in the last 20 months? Is there anything, anything at all we can do? Know that we all can make a difference. As Janil said, “Getting your booster shot as soon as you are eligible makes a difference. Following the Safe Management Measures makes a difference. Regular testing makes a difference. Using the right health care resources appropriately makes a difference.”

We all can MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Jiayou, Singapore!

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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