Singapore’s hospital emergency departments have experienced a surge in patient volume over the past two weeks, leading to a rise in the median waiting time for ward admission from about five hours to 7.2 hours, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported on Tuesday (25 Apr).
MOH said that volumes of both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients have increased, causing longer waiting times in some hospitals.
In response to a CNA query, the ministry explained, “The root cause, as explained recently by (Health) Minister Ong Ye Kung in parliament on Mar 21, 2023, is that we have many more patients with more complex medical needs, often older, who needed longer hospital stays.”
The MOH reassured that while patients wait to be admitted, their treatment would continue.
The ministry said, “Our public hospitals will activate inpatient teams to start investigations and treatment for patients in the emergency departments while awaiting admission into the hospital.”
Furthermore, if urgent care is required, patients may receive treatment or undergo surgery elsewhere in the hospital before a ward bed becomes available.
During the week of April 9-15, MOH data showed that median waiting times exceeded 24 hours at three hospitals at one stage.
However, by the end of the week, they had dropped to a range of two hours to 12 hours. The daily bed occupancy rates ranged between 80% and 100% during this period.
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) experienced the longest median waiting time during that week, peaking at nearly 30 hours on 10 April
The hospital, which also recorded a 100% daily bed occupancy rate for six of the seven days, attributed the longer waiting times to “unique and extraneous factors.”
A spokesperson for the hospital explained, “The opening of Woodlands Health was originally slated for 2022 to augment the growing needs of the northern part of Singapore, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed this.”
KTPH has implemented measures to optimize bed capacity and improve patient flow. The spokesperson said, “We have expanded the capacity of our emergency departments to accommodate more patients, and redesigned our care protocols to right-site care and minimize unnecessary admission.”
In the long term, the MOH plans to add more hospital beds to address the issue of longer waiting times.
“Ultimately, the situation has to be resolved with more hospital capacity, the development of which has been delayed due to COVID-19,” the ministry said.
MOH is also working to expand transitional care facilities and ramp up teleconsultation and telemedicine programs to reduce hospital demand.