Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO of SingHealth,
CEOs and Healthcare Leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am happy to be here with you today at the Singapore Health Quality Service Awards Ceremony 2021. For those who are attending the event online, thank you for taking time to join us. I am glad that technology has allowed us to connect and celebrate while observing the COVID-19 safe management measures.
2. This year’s edition of the Singapore Health Quality Service Awards Ceremony is a Celebration of Unity as we honour healthcare professionals and partners who have contributed significantly in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. Even as the battle is ongoing, we would like to take the opportunity to appreciate and recognise the efforts of healthcare heroes who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve courageously and tirelessly. Our journey in the past year has not been easy, but I am heartened that we have remained resilient and overcame many challenges together to arrive at where we are today.
Evolving Healthcare Systems
3. Along with demographic shifts and societal changes, our healthcare system continues to progress and evolve to meet the demands of our population. We are adopting and developing technology to improve patient care, increase productivity and make our healthcare system future-ready, and at the same time ensure that it remains sustainable for the long term.
4. There are countless examples of innovation across the healthcare system, and today I have time to only share a few. The DInnoVAtors Team from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) leveraged innovative engineering solutions to protect healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them is the System of Portable AnteRoom for Containment (SG-SPARC), a portable system that can convert wards, intensive care units and operating theatres into negative pressure isolation rooms within hours to house patients with infectious diseases. Developed by a team of anaesthesiologists from SGH, in collaboration with local biomedical incubator The Biofactory, the system can be fitted at the entrance of an area and includes a Hepa fan filter unit that can be powered up to create a negative pressure environment within the patient’s room, so that the infectious droplets can be prevented from escaping and be safely removed. The system is currently used in SGH and is marketed locally and regionally, especially in countries where there are insufficient isolation rooms.
Coping with COVID-19 and Improving Patient Experience
5. COVID-19 has shown how efficient and adaptable our healthcare institutions and professionals have been when grappling with the surges in demand for medical manpower resources, and the need to quickly pivot to fast-evolving situations.
6. Through swift and careful planning, we have erected and ramped up healthcare facilities and capacity to respond to the surge of COVID cases. One example was the Community Care Facility (CCF) at Singapore Expo, which served to isolate individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 but did not require hospital care. CCFs like these helped to preserve our hospitals to ensure that they have sufficient capacity to care for patients with more critical care needs.
7. In April 2020, SingHealth was tasked to set up and operate 3,200 beds at the CCF@Expo alongside a multitude of partners, many of which have never worked together before. This was achieved within ten days, thanks to the team led by Associate Professor Tan Hiang Khoon and Assistant Professor Chow Wei En. The team – one of the recipients for the Best Team Award today – comprised doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, administration and ancillary staff from various SingHealth institutions as well as members from the community. Demonstrating an ‘all-for-one and one-for-all’ spirit, they worked closely to implement various projects, such as the deployment of Temi robots as well as COVID chatbots which acted as a virtual physician and served to disseminate announcements and reminders for residents at the facility. Their hard work and dedication enabled them to achieve zero patient adverse events, zero healthcare worker transmission and provided a positive experience for the CCF residents.
8. Indeed, our healthcare professionals have contributed much to our ability to mount a robust and collective effort to protect people in Singapore. Dr Edwin Low, Director of Programme Development at the SingHealth Office of Regional Health, a winner of the Superhero Award, had initially planned to scale down on work for family reasons. But when COVID-19 hit, he took on the challenging task of leading an inter-agency team to manage the COVID-19 situation in the migrant worker dormitories. Working long hours, he conducted site visits at the dormitories and liaised with multiple agencies to address the challenges and find practical solutions. He was instrumental in building a united team to fight against an unknown enemy under rapidly evolving conditions. Like Dr Low, many healthcare professionals across the entire healthcare system moved out of their comfort zones to be deployed to the dormitories, swab facilities as well as other front line areas of the battle.
9. Everyday heroes can also be found in the people around us, whose seemingly small actions made a big impact. For instance, Ms Toh Cheng Yen, Senior Nurse Manager of Ren Ci Hospital, who is also receiving the Superhero Award, recognised the demand for quality masks in the community to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and decided to pick up sewing skills from scratch to sew reusable masks, at her own expense to give to her colleagues and patients, and later on sold them as part of the Ren Ci’s fundraising efforts. With the support of her colleagues, family and friends, Ms Toh raised $3,300 for Ren Ci and its beneficiaries.
10. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all healthcare and front-line workers for your immense dedication and perseverance in fighting COVID-19 and caring for our patients beyond your call of duty. You have fought hard and placed society before self, and stood in solidarity at the frontline to care for fellow Singaporeans in need. On behalf of the Ministry of Health, and all Singaporeans, I thank you for working tirelessly to keep Singapore safe. We will continue to build the capability of the healthcare sector, invest in skills training and job redesign so that you can be supported at each level and do well.
11. The future will bring new challenges, so our healthcare transformation journey never ends. We must continue to take steps towards a sustainable future for healthcare and I am hopeful that as we work together as one healthcare family, we can and will get there. Thank you.