We went through three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have been very difficult. It has been the most difficult for our healthcare workers and healthcare institutions, such as our hospitals, community hospitals and Active Ageing Centres that have been carrying the burden of this pandemic. So this is a big thank you to everyone. Thank you very much for carrying this through.
2. I want to thank Ang Mo Kio–Thye Hua Kwan Hospital (AMK-THKH). There was a time during the Delta wave when we almost ran out of ICU and hospital beds, so we opened up COVID-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs). We converted Bright Vision Hospital (BVH) into a CTF to support the Singapore General Hospital. As a result, BVH had to decant their patients to AMK-THKH. This was not easy for your hospital as you had not taken care of those patients before. But thanks to the support of the Board, you bravely took it on during the height of the pandemic. This is just one of the many stories of people stepping out of their comfort zones to do what is necessary.
3. As we live with COVID-19, things seem to have stabilised in the community. However the situation in our hospitals has not stabilised, and our hospitals and Emergency Departments (Eds) are still very busy. Why are they so busy? Because there are still not enough beds. When there are not enough beds, there will be a long queue of patients.
4. It is like the Central Expressway (CTE) which carries a lot of traffic. All it takes is for one motorcycle to break down and the whole place is jammed. Likewise, once there are not enough beds in our wards, our EDs will be very jammed. What we need to do now is to decant as many of our patients in the wards as possible. For patients who do not need hospital care and only require someone to take care of them, we need to send them to Transitional Care Facilities (TCF).
5. Once again, we look to the help of places like AMK-THKH, to convert to a TCF. We will support you all the way so that you work closely with the hospital and try to free up beds and help us to solve our ED problem.
6. People do not understand why our hospitals are so crowded. Our hospitals are crowded because our healthcare workers are carrying the burden of the pandemic so that the rest of Singapore can have their freedom, such as having dinners, parties and being able to travel.
7. I hope that everyone living in Singapore can do your part to help our hospitals. The best way to do so is to get your vaccination. If your condition is not urgent, do not go to the ED and that will help us a great deal.
8. All this is possible because of our healthcare workers and I can see you have a team of very good healthcare workers from all countries. Today, many of them are dressed up in their ethnic best. I understand that you have about 200 staff here today but about 100 staff could not attend this gala dinner as they have to work, because our hospitals are a 24/7 operation. But I understand from your CEO that they received special bento boxes for their dinner. I can tell that the management here takes care of your staff and that is very important.
9. A deep impression that AMK-THKH has left on me is that everyone here is from different parts of the world. You have come to Singapore to serve in our healthcare system and have become an integral part of our community. I know some of you wish to stay in Singapore and become Permanent Residents someday. The Ministry of Health will do our best to support you. This is important because once you work here, you become part of the team and part of the family.
10. On this note, have a good evening. The pandemic has not passed but we will get better day by day as long as we work together. Thank you very much.