Lapses in our Public Hospital – what needs to be fixed?

When I started researching this article, I wanted answers to why there have been so many lapses of care in our public hospitals in recent weeks. Is there something grossly wrong with our healthcare system? What needs to be fixed?

The most obvious reason is the increased workload of our healthcare workers, and my sympathetic side wanted to know what was being done to help them.

“Tremendous sacrifices, at a heavy personal cost” – PM Lee

Yesterday, in his national address on Singapore’s COVID-19 situation, PM Lee thanked healthcare workers for their “tremendous sacrifices, at a heavy personal cost”.

His full speech here.

Our healthcare workers have been in overdrive for more than two years, fighting this pandemic on adrenaline and camaraderie, but at the expense of their own health, personal safety, and mental wellbeing.

Not only are they working longer hours to contain each variant, but they also run into the risk of getting infected or passing on the infection to those around them.

They are also the people with loved ones at homes that they cannot take care of right now, because they are responsible caring for the health and wellbeing of their patients.

They are arguably making the most sacrifices right now, doing the hardest work.

Thankfully, they are not alone in this battle.

The Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU) recently put up this Facebook post:

“Through our collective voice, we will support you in all ways possible. Together, we will continue to support, advocate and represent you in all your workplace issues. … we have strongly advocated for our healthcare workers to be respected and treated with dignity and therefore we have urged MOH to convene a tripartite committee to address issues of abuse and harassment – of which the Union deplores categorically – in order to better protect our healthcare workers.”

In the same post, HSEU also highlighted the different advocacy efforts happening behind the scenes.

Something always replaces COVID-19

healthcare worker's post

While the Omicron wave is subsiding, it is still a long road to recovery for our healthcare system. It continues to face tremendous strain with non-Covid-related emergency department admissions and playing catch-up to those who have delayed care for other conditions.

Like what a friend working at one of the public hospitals wryly commented in one of my group chats, “If it’s not COVID, it’s something else.”

This was his response when we asked if he could make it to our gathering next week.

And so, I go back to my initial question- what needs to be fixed?

Instead of looking for solutions in systems and the environment, the answer may lie within us.

It’s a matter of “ownself check ownself.”

As users and beneficiaries of the healthcare system, we should show our support in a concrete way.

We do not have the authority to advocate policy and institutional improvements, but we can change our attitude towards healthcare workers whose respite may not come so soon.

Our healthcare workers are just as tired as everyone else, so let us all take a moment to be kind and respectful.

Perhaps it is now our turn to take care of the health of our healthcare workers.