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Our Unsung Heroes

Fighting #COVID19 together as #OneSNEC-SERI

Here's a shout-out to all the unsung heroes at SNEC and SERI. We are grateful for your sacrifices. Thank you for keeping Singapore safe!

Portraits of courage: Cindy Tan

“To me, it’s a job that needs to be done, and it’s something we ought to do, even though we’re not at full strength.” This is how deeply Cindy Tan cares about fulfilling her duty as Senior Associate Executive in Quality Service and Office of Patient Experience, especially in these COVID-19 times, when colleagues are often deployed to external operations, including the dormitories and community care facilities such as the Singapore EXPO, thus disrupting work routines and patient schedules. In handling all kinds of patient feedback, Cindy and her team are keenly aware that patients have been extra sensitive during the pandemic. “We empathise with them as they are frustrated about the important processes that we have implemented in the centre,” she shares. “We will go to the clinic to speak to the patients — in surgical mask, and maintain safe distancing, of course. There, we will explain how we can resolve their problems, such as scheduling another doctor should their regular one be on duty at the dormitories.” Cindy also helps to allay their anxiety about their eye condition, and gets advice from doctors on symptoms to look out for as well as preventative methods. “We work really hard to look for solutions and alternatives, but also advise them that there are health and safety guidelines that restrict what we can do to meet their expectations.” Because of COVID-19, staggered hours, safe distancing, online meetings, and disinfecting her desk are now second nature to Cindy. She is unable to work from home because Repeat Prescription requires her to physically coordinate with the Call Centre, Pharmacy, and Medical Officer. But the big challenge she faces “is the need to keep myself motivated, especially when handling negative feedback, and patients or their caregivers who refuse to accept my explanations”. She adds, “I just remain positive and get the job done alongside my dedicated team.” Cindy is thankful for observant colleagues and supervisors — who can tell from her body language that she is feeling burnt out — for sharing snacks and advising her to take a break.

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Portraits of courage: Arumugam Kalyrani

Senior Enrolled Operating Theatre Nurse Arumugam Kalyrani, better known as Kala, is a 25-year veteran of SNEC. “My job in the OT is to circulate and help the anaesthetist,” she explains. While friends and relatives support her calling to be a nurse, they have been expressing serious concerns for her ever since COVID-19 appeared in Singapore. And these concerns have grown louder after Kala recently volunteered to be deployed at the Singapore Expo, which is now serving as an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients. Kala fully appreciates the sentiments of loved ones, and assures them that full PPE is available to her anytime it is called for. Besides helpful teammates, she is also thankful for a caring management that regularly updates them on the changing COVID-19 situation as well as the evolving best practices that frontline healthcare workers need to follow. “What I find most challenging is familiarising myself with the constantly changing measures to curb the progress of the COVID-19 virus.” But before her deployment at the Singapore Expo, Kala had already stepped up her game, although in an unusual way: unprompted, she opened her home to a few Malaysian colleagues residing in Johor Bahru when their country’s lockdown prevented them from making the daily commute across the Causeway. “When the lockdown was announced, I saw them agonising whether to remain in Singapore or head back to Johor Bahru,” Kala shares. “But securing accommodation in Singapore means that they won’t be able to make ends meet.” Since she lives alone and has room to spare, she decided to let them stay with her until travel restrictions are lifted. She even foots the grocery bills. “As colleagues, we should help one another, especially in times of need,” she affirms.

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Portraits of courage: Calista Chua

Medical Social Worker Calista Chua and her colleagues have been facing a more intense work environment during this period of COVID-19. “We have observed a significant increase in referrals to our Medical Social Work (MSW) department,” she shares. Patients are also “more anxious and frustrated as they grieve over the loss of finances and freedom”. But it is far more than just a surge in patient numbers to MSW. “Some of us have been pooled with other social workers and counsellors to man the COVID-19 National CARE Hotline, a helpline set up to provide emotional support to those who need it during the COVID-19 crisis.” To better respond to patient needs, Calista and her team have compiled a list of resources, both financial and in-kind, such as meal support and hotlines for emotional and psychological support. They have also been liaising with internal departments, MSW departments in other institutions, and MOH to streamline all their processes. To allay the fears of friends and family, Calista has to constantly assure them that additional precautions have been implemented at work. Besides staggered lunch breaks, “we have also been diligently sanitising our workstations before and after a session with patients, and before we hand over the room to another colleague”. She admits that her family still worries about her catching the virus since she is travelling to and from a healthcare institution. Despite these difficult times, Calista’s care and concern for her patients still shine through. “Face-to-face contact is important in our line of work. But it is no longer something we easily have today, and I really miss that,” she says. Calista is glad for supportive colleagues, who never fail to encourage each other, often with snacks and beverages. “These have been great sources of stress-relief!”

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Portraits of courage: Mohamed Kahir Bin Abu Bakar

Mohamed Kahir Bin Abu Bakar is a Projects Executive with ISS, a global leader in facility services and a long-time partner of SNEC’s Operations & Facility department. Attached to SNEC for the past 25 years, he is part of our army of support staff who have stepped up their duties and responsibilities to more effectively contain COVID-19.

In charge of housekeeping within SNEC, Kahir supervises a team of 25 cleaners. The team has been tirelessly managing the logistics ever since COVID-19 struck, helping to shift tables, remove chairs, and set up new triage areas. Having lived and worked through SARS, Kahir has used that experience to establish protocols with respect to the pandemic, such as increasing the cleaning frequency, and putting up additional sanitiser touch points around SNEC.

Although Kahir has made certain that all members of his team understand the importance of wearing PPE while going about their duties, he worries about them constantly. “Most of them are in their 50s and 60s — very vulnerable to COVID-19! That’s why I brief them daily now instead of once a week to ensure their safety,” he says. He is also aware of safety protocols, and will advise patients — especially the ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ — as and when the need arises. “I speak a bit of Hokkien, so that helps,” he quips.

Kahir is proud that he and his team are able to provide such an essential service in these difficult times. “What we do may be invisible and mundane, but we do it so that the Centre can be safe for patients and staff,” he stresses.

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Portraits of courage: Ong Chu Ting

As an operating theatre staff nurse at SNEC for about two years, one of Ong Chu Ting’s main duties is assisting surgeons in the operating theatre. But when COVID-19 arrived on our shores, she recently volunteered to be deployed in the A&E department of SGH as part of our team of medical professionals who have stepped up to contain the virus.

“For the whole of my first day there, I mostly stayed out of the way to observe, initiating help to the staff where it was needed. There was a quick tour of the A&E department on Day 2; everything else was learnt on the job!” At SGH, Chu Ting’s daily routine includes carrying out doctors’ orders, such as giving IV drips and injections, and dispensing medicine; providing patient care, such as taking vital signs regularly and helping non-ambulant patients move around; and admin protocols, such as admission and discharge procedures and assigning of beds.

Although her friends and family continuously worry about her health and safety, Chu Ting reveals that they are enormously supportive of her joining the national effort to fight COVID-19. Many of them send her care packages containing lots of vitamin C, as well as encouraging messages via photos, cards and WhatsApp. She stresses that safety protocols are well established and scrupulously followed by every staff.

While Chu Ting admits that being on the frontline can be tiring, “I focus on carrying out my tasks to provide patient care; I don’t mull on the fact that I’m a frontliner or on the risks I face”. However, she is energised when her colleagues show her little gestures of appreciation, such as a pat on the shoulder or a nod of acknowledgement. Paying those gestures forward, she has this message for fellow frontline workers: “You are stronger than you think!”

Click here to read the article.

International Nurses Day 2020

To commemorate International Nurses Day 2020, Mediacorp’s Vasantham Tamil Seithi News & Current Affairs Online interviewed SNEC’s Assistant Director of Nursing, Ms Chitra Vallei Govindasamy.

A 34-year veteran of nursing, she shared what inspired her to enter the field, how she finds fulfilment on the job, and the challenges nurses today face when it comes to patient care. She also encouraged and cheered fellow nurses on the frontline of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to read the article.

For the greater good

“My role was to conduct infection control audits without direct patient contact. I had to inspect for tidiness and environmental hygiene at the start of every shift, and make sure that the equipment and consumables are available and adhere to infection control standards. I was required to do 5 audits per shift and ensure that all staff are compliant with infection control practices.”

- Alicia Tan, Staff Nurse, SNEC Operating Theatre, who was deployed at SGH’s Emergency Department for a month

Despite changes in working hours and location, Alicia recognised the importance of her duties so that patients and staff are kept safe.

We are so proud of you, Alicia! Thank you for your contributions towards the fight against COVID-19!

In good hands

"Initially my family and friends were worried about my deployment. But after understanding the situation, they gave me a lot of encouragement and support. The thank you cards and food from the public also kept us motivated.”

- Sarah Eng, Staff Nurse, Operating Theatre, SNEC

Sarah recently completed a month-long deployment at SGH’s Isolation Ward, where her key role was to ensure other healthcare workers on the frontline were wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly.

Thank you Sarah for your dedication and stepping up on behalf of SNEC to support the SGH Campus in the fight against COVID-19!