4-week suspension of hospital visits begins, visitors welcome stepped-up Covid-19 measures

SINGAPORE – At the start of a four-week suspension of hospital visits on Friday (Sept 24), only a few visitors were seen trickling in to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in the morning. They were among a small minority of people allowed to visit their loved ones.

During this suspension from Friday to Oct 23, visitors are allowed only for patients such as those who are critically ill and for women who have just given birth, on a case-by-case basis.

They will have to produce a valid antigen rapid test (ART) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result, obtained within 24 hours of each visit.

This restriction comes amid a rise in Covid-19 cases and with more cases being detected among hospital staff, patients and visitors.

On Thursday, Singapore recorded 1,504 new Covid-19 cases, the highest since the pandemic began last year. Changi General Hospital was one of the large clusters, with 58 cases among its staff as at Sept 8. 

When The Straits Times visited TTSH, signs had been placed at the ward registration area of the hospital, reminding the public that no visitors are allowed.

A designated area for antigen rapid testing had been set up, with about 30 cubicles. It is not known whether the set-up is for patients or visitors.

A few people were seen registering at the visitor service counters – including those whose loved ones had died at the hospital or are on the dangerously ill list.

One of the first visitors to arrive at the hospital at 8am was Ms Iris Lim, 48. She was allowed to visit her father who has been warded in the intensive care unit (ICU) for lupus and bleeding. She told ST that she had taken an ART at a general practitioner clinic in Yishun on Thursday evening prior to her hospital visit.

Patients in critical condition are allowed up to five visitors, with a maximum of two visitors at the patient’s bedside at any one time.

An empty ward visitor registration area in Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Sept 24, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Ms Lim, who works in sales, said: “If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to come to a hospital during this period. Why put ourselves at risk? But my father is in the ICU.”

She and her siblings will be taking turns to visit him over the next few days.

By 11.30am, tables at the visitor service counters were filled with food items that caregivers had left for patients that they could not visit.

The hospital has urged the public not to deliver or drop off items for patients unless they are essential.

Another visitor, Ms Lee Peck Hong, 50, was at the hospital to accompany her father for his routine check-up. Her mother-in-law, 88, has been warded in TTSH, but she and her family would not be able to visit her.

Ms Lee, who runs her own business, said: “I think it is for everyone’s good. If anyone carrying the Covid-19 virus goes up to the wards, it would be very dangerous for the elderly who already have health conditions.”

Antigen Rapid Test booths near the entrance of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, on Sept 24, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

To keep in touch, Ms Lee’s family has been talking to her mother-in-law via WhatsApp video call, with the help of nurses.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, TTSH said: “With visits to our wards suspended during this time, there are other ways to connect with your loved ones. Go digital – call, text or Facetime them. We will do our best to support you.”

The hospital added that it can help visitors convey personal messages to their loved ones by printing out these messages and delivering them.

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