In response to a question from MP Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang) if healthcare settings are “adequately equipped” to handle the next wave, Mr Ong said the key to managing the next wave is to ensure that Singapore’s hospital capacity is “not overly stressed”.
This includes ensuring high vaccination and booster coverage, as well as making sure healthcare institutions and facilities are prepared and ready to ramp up capacity if there are increased admissions, he added.
As of noon on Monday, there were 631 people in hospital, with 74 requiring oxygen supplementation and 14 in the intensive care unit.
“Our hospitals remain ready to ramp up dedicated ICU and isolation bed capacity should there be an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients who require hospitalisation,” said Mr Ong.
There are also “sufficient beds” in the COVID-19 treatment facilities for serious cases that do not need hospital care, he said, adding that such COVID-19 treatment facilities are about 25 per cent occupied.
The facilities were “recently consolidated” from more than 2,000 beds to about 1,300 beds, with a “higher manning ratio”, said Mr Ong. This makes it easier to transfer patients from hospitals to the facilities without a “significant drop” in levels of care, he added.
However, public hospitals continue to face “high demand” from non-COVID-19 patients, said Mr Ong.
“Over time, we hope more of our (COVID-19 treatment facilities) can be multi-purpose isolation and treatment facilities, for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients,” he added.
The COVID-19 treatment facility at Sengkang Community Hospital has been “reconfigured” to this new model, and the authorities will explore converting other facilities, said the Health Minister.
In anticipating the wave of infections, the Government maintained the indoor masking requirement even when cases were “low and stable” to “moderate the infection rate” when the new wave arrived.
“If we still want to reduce the infection rate even further, more stringent safe management measures will need to be implemented. And that means reintroducing things like group sizes, capacity limits and masking outdoors,” said Mr Ong.
“We cannot rule out these steps if we are hit with a serious infection wave, but as far as possible, we should avoid them, especially if we are reasonably confident that our hospital capacity can hold up, and that we are determined to live with COVID-19 and continue our journey of endemicity.”