SINGAPORE: These days, a regular day in the emergency department (ED) – or at least the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department at Raffles Hospital looks like this:
Triaging the long queue of concerned patients and their caregivers, rushing to examine patients who just arrived at the ambulance bay, performing emergency procedures, and at the same time, caring for patients with non-emergency conditions.
Every second matters at the ED. With the Omicron variant, the “flooding” of patients has made triaging challenging. Triage helps the ED team decide which patient has the highest needs – for instance, someone who has had an acute stroke, a heart attack or severe trauma must be seen first.
With increased patients at the ED, triaging takes a longer time than usual. This can affect the speed at which patients with higher acuities receive medical care and disrupts the purpose of the ED – to provide timely emergency care to save lives.
“EXPERIENCED STAFF” AND PEACE OF MIND
Seeing the increasing numbers, the Ministry of Health put out an advice not to rush to see a general practitioner (GP) or visit the ED just to confirm COVID-19 test results or to get a medical certificate. But this still happens. One reason is there’s a group that still feels vulnerable.
Despite achieving a high COVID-19 vaccination rate in the Singapore population, young patients below the age of three and the elderly are generally patients classified under “Protocol 1”. This means that an antigen rapid test (ART) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is recommended.
It is not surprising that parents with young children make up a certain proportion of patients that we see.
They worry about subjecting their children to the recommended PCR swab tests. When we talk to them, they tell us that they believe a hospital’s ED team is experienced and can provide their children with a more pleasant or “less painful” swab test experience.
There are also patients who face challenges with isolation with their children at home. This is especially when there are vulnerable elderly family members living in the same household.
For these patients, they would often visit the ED and may request to be transferred to a community care facility or COVID-19 treatment facility.
What about other adults who do not fall into this vulnerable category? Well, there are different motivations behind each visit.