Paramedics now don protective gear for all calls
Public should not to be alarmed, says Amrin Amin, who also urges Singaporeans to recognise healthcare workers' contributions
Since the outbreak alert level was raised to orange last Friday, all Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) emergency medical crew have been required to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) when responding to all cases, not just those suspected to have the coronavirus.
So the public should not be alarmed if they see SCDF personnel in gowns, gloves and masks, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin yesterday.
"Another thing is that the ambulance, after conveying a suspect case, will be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated. So the public should rest assured," he told media on the sidelines of a visit to the SCDF's operations centre and the Paya Lebar Fire Station.
Protecting the front-line team is critical, which is why cleaning and disinfecting are a priority.
When an emergency medical crew take a suspect case to hospital, they will remove their PPE and clean up at the hospital before returning.
The ambulance will also undergo a 20-minute decontamination at the hospital with the interior sprayed with disinfectant.
Personnel at the operations centre have been screening 995 calls for suspect cases, asking a series of questions about symptoms and travel history.
Paramedics will also ask these questions when responding to suspect cases.
As of 8am yesterday, the SCDF had responded to 219 calls involving suspect cases in about a month.
SCDF's chief medical officer, Col (Dr) Shalini Arulanandam, said that unless they have been given other instructions, those with symptoms should first visit general practitioners, who will call upon the necessary resources.
"We do get additional calls now compared to before, so it is even more important that the public calls us only for emergencies," she said.
When asked if resources have been stretched, Mr Amrin said the SCDF has been preparing for such a situation and is managing okay.
He urged Singaporeans to encourage healthcare officers and to recognise their contributions. Citing reports of ugly behaviour by members of the public - nurses have been told not to use the lift but to take the stairs, or been told to leave MRT trains, while ambulance drivers have been shooed away from buying food in common areas - Mr Amrin said: "These are very unfortunate incidents... We need to condemn the disgraceful acts by a small minority."
During the visit, Mr Amrin spoke to front-line SCDF officers, including those screening people at the airport, swabbing those under quarantine, and taking suspect cases to hospital.
He said: "From my conversations with the officers, we have noticed that Singaporeans are generally very receptive and kind...
"But we have also detected a certain level of anxiety, a certain level of concern.
"We must be careful so as to not let this concern overwhelm us... We must be careful not to regard people who put their lives at risk with such contempt."