More than 450 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel have been roped in to help man hotlines as home recovery buddies for patients recovering from COVID-19 at home.
As more people are put under the COVID-19 Home Recovery Programme (HRP), government agencies have been roped in to provide support, help and advice on the next steps to take.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is one of these agencies, and it has been stepping up efforts to deploy personnel as Home Recovery Buddies (HRBs) to these patients.
Since 29 Sep, more than 200 Regulars and Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) have been manning hotlines to provide information to patients recovering at home. The number of SAF personnel involved have since doubled to more than 450.
Among them is Corporal (CPL) Luth Danish Bin Zani, who has been a HRB for almost a month.
As a patient's first line of contact, CPL Luth provides them with the necessary information and assistance, assures them and makes sure that they know where to go for help. These include information on telemedicine providers and even lending a listening ear.
"Some of them are anxious and frustrated as they have no idea what the next steps are so our role is to empathise with them, tell them the protocol for HRP and give them a detailed explanation of what they should do throughout their 10 days of HRP," said the 23-year-old boat coxswain from 35th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers.
CPL Luth currently works a 12-hour shift from 9am to 9pm, with one rest day for every two working days.
Before manning the hotlines as a HRB, he had to undergo rigorous training conducted by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the SAF.
The training included familiarising themselves on the HRP protocol and learning how to handle phone calls and patients' frustration. CPL Luth also has a list of Frequently Asked Questions, which is constantly updated with the latest national policies, so that he can answer patients' queries quickly and accurately.
Easing the healthcare system
When the SAF was first roped in on 29 Sep, they had their work cut out for them. Commander of the Home Recovery Task Group Colonel (COL) Tong Yi Chuen and his team put in place a cloud-based workflow system to manage and keep track of the different cases and phone calls.
He also reached out to the People's Association (PA) and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to smoothen the overall work processes.
For instance, PA would send care packs in the form of food and groceries to needy HRP patients. The Silver Generation Office, an outreach arm under the AIC, would help to visit the elderly, call them daily until their isolation order ends and even deliver meals to them when needed.
With the help of these agencies, the team is now able to handle almost all HRP-related calls. In addition, 90 per cent of HRP patients are contacted within 24 hours of submitting their details online.
In a virtual press conference earlier today, group director of the MOH's Crisis Strategy and Operations Group Dinesh Vasu Dash expressed his appreciation to the SAF for their help with the HRP, as 70 per cent of patients who contract COVID-19 are put on the programme.
"That's quite a significant number, which would otherwise have been directed to different parts of the healthcare system and resulted in a certain degree of chokage," said Mr Dinesh.
"Our colleagues from the SAF have been instrumental in helping us out. We see this as an important fight (and) the NSFs see this as a national mission."
When asked about the morale of the SAF personnel involved, COL Tong said: "The SAF is committed in this fight and we hope that our contributions have made a difference."