SINGAPORE – This Covid-19 treatment facility has a “five-star view” of Marina Bay, and is customised with seniors in mind – from well-lit wards to meals that are high in fibre and low in salt to toilets that have anti-slip mats and grab bars.
Each ward has a communal area where patients can eat, watch television and participate in activities such as board games and simple exercises together.
This is the care approach taken by the facility at the F1 Pit Building that will receive its first patients from next Tuesday (Nov 9).
The facility, which can house up to 721 patients, will take in Covid-19 positive seniors who have chronic illnesses but are stable and able to perform activities of daily living such as eating and toileting independently.
They must be above 70 years old if they are unvaccinated, or above 80 if they are inoculated, to be admitted.
Conceived in mid-October, the facility was set up within a fortnight by National University Health System in partnership with private healthcare provider Health Management International (HMI), managing agent Mandarin Oriental, infrastructure firm Surbana Jurong, public healthcare technology agency Integrated Health Information Systems, and Singapore Tourism Board, which owns the building.
The facility and others like it will help to ease the strain faced by public hospitals amid the current surge in cases, said National University Hospital (NUH) neurology consultant Dr Jonathan Ong, who is the medical director of the facility.
There are currently more than 2,300 beds across 17 such facilities that have been set up to cater to higher-risk patients who require a greater level of care but are not so ill that they need to be hospitalised.
The patients include infected seniors with co-morbidities who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
The Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Case Management Task Group decides which patients will be admitted to the facility at the F1 Pit Building.
They may come from hospitals or the community.
“Right from day one, we wanted to create an elder-friendly environment very much focused on wellness, both mental and physical,” Dr Ong told reporters during a tour of the facility on Friday (Nov 5).
More than 30 care ambassadors employed by Mandarin Oriental will engage patients and provide emotional support.
There will be at least one ambassador in each ward at any time.
“The patients who are admitted here are all Covid-19 positive (so) we are able to organise communal activities which will enable them to engage with one another and spend their time productively,” Dr Ong said.
The F1 Pit Building was chosen as it is typically unoccupied, except during the Singapore F1 Grand Prix which was cancelled again this year, he added. Hence, it could be retrofitted quickly.
There are seven wards, three for male patients on the second floor and four for females on the third floor, with about 100 beds each depending on the configuration.
Each floor has an observation and resuscitation area with equipment to deal with emergency situations and other acute conditions.
There are isolation rooms on each floor to temporarily host patients who may have other infectious diseases such as chicken pox or viral conjunctivitis.
“It is important to stress that the way we are prioritising safety in this facility is to make sure that the medical care is right beside the patient,” said the facility’s deputy medical director Dr Lenard Cheng, who is an emergency physician at NUH.
“We are adopting a policy where we are pre-emptive about patients who are showing early signs of deterioration. So we never wait until it is too late,” he added.
Patients will be monitored around the clock by medical staff from HMI.
There will be up to 17 clinical staff in each ward at any point in time, and there will be at least 150 workers at the facility, including doctors, nurses, health care assistants, care ambassadors as well as security, housekeeping and maintenance staff.
A dedicated ambulance service will take patients to the nearest hospital, Singapore General Hospital, if necessary.
An industrial lift large enough to fit a trolley bed was specially installed to facilitate the evacuation of patients who may need to be intubated – a procedure where a tube is inserted into a patient’s windpipe to aid breathing.
“While we have catered for such events, we do not foresee this happening frequently,” said Dr Ong.
“We plan for the worst-case scenario to achieve the best outcome.”
Operations at the facility will be ramped up gradually, Dr Ong added, and he expects occupancy to be just south of 50 per cent by the end of the month.
“We are prepared to go all the way up (to 100 per cent) if the need arises,” he said.
“This facility will be operational as long as the nation needs us.”
Nearly 95 per cent of those who died from Covid-19 in the last six months were aged 60 and above, and 72 per cent of all who died had not been fully vaccinated.
Of the remaining 28 per cent who were fully inoculated, almost all had underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
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