With the surge in COVID-19 cases in Singapore, our national healthcare system has been stretched. To support the stretched healthcare resources, the SAF Medical Corps sent medical personnel to work alongside the healthcare staff in the emergency departments of several hospitals.
A team of Military Medical Experts (MME) and medics from the RSAF volunteered to help out, and was deployed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) on 22 February 2022, where they help attend to patients in the emergency department in KTPH.
ME1 Bryan Lim, from 705 SQN, did not think twice when he heard that our public healthcare institutions required help. As a Singaporean, a professional soldier, and healthcare worker, he felt really honoured to be able to support our hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and would do his very best to provide that extra pair of hands in the wards.
“Having been able to care for the migrant workers who had COVID-19 infection at the Community Care Facility in EXPO previously, this time round I get to experience a different environment, which is to care for patients in our A&E departments. It has been a very fulfilling and humbling experience thus far to be part of the WoG effort in tackling the pandemic.
After working with the nurses and doctors in KTPH, I sincerely appreciate their unrelenting spirits to keep our healthcare system up throughout the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore. They kept on providing massive care for their patients even when they are overwhelmed with the workload and continued to provide all they can even when sometimes, it seemed like there was nothing left to give.”
CPL Wesley Leong, a Search and Rescue Combat Medic from 706 SQN, was glad that his medical training, despite being limited to the SAF, was valued by Healthcare Institutions and recognised as a value-add to their operations and the fight against COVID-19. This deployment had given him a chance to be on the other side of the medical community, where he could care for critically ill patients. He also felt that this was a good exposure for his team to observe processes, and bring back best practices to his SQN. Going beyond the call of duty, CPL Wesley added that some of the medics would stay back beyond their shift timings, and the nurses would have to chide them to remember to go for breaks!
“As ‘extra hands on deck’, we help relieve some important but time-consuming tasks, so that the Staff Nurses can focus on other tasks such as medication administration and continuity of care. We were able to relieve a bit of the work by being the person who could help with blood glucose monitoring, and other ad-hoc tasks that needed a pair of hands and eyes. We helped to fill in these demands especially when the patient load was high. There were times when the work was tough, but with guidance from the Staff Nurses, we were able to persevere and contribute meaningful. I think it was very nice to receive positive reactions like ‘Did you work here before?’ when we demonstrated that we were familiar with certain medical procedures that they did not expect we could perform.”
The experience thus far has also brought up an emotional side in CPL Wesley as he urged everyone to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. “Seeing critically ill patients made me realise the fragility and value of life, good health, and a life well-lived. One night, I went to give my mom a hug after work.”
Similarly for CPL Jabez Lim, a medic from 708 SQN, he wanted to contribute in whatever ways he can to show our healthcare workers that they are not alone! He treasures working in this professional setting, and is very grateful to have such a meaningful once-in-a-life time experience to serve our country in this way. Even though they were constantly faced with life and death scenarios which take an emotional and mental toll on them, the support from the nurses has been immense in helping the team to cope with these emotions. CPL Jabez has appreciated the team work behind hospital operations – every member plays an essential role to provide care and treatment for the patients!
“The interaction and connections made with patients was one of the things that was most impactful to me. Their genuine gratitude and words of thanks make our hard work worthwhile. The patients in KTPH were also different from those whom we see in SAF in terms of the demographics, and the type and severity of medical conditions. There was a steep learning curve for us and we had to learn to use dialect to communicate or be sensitive when handling geriatric patients with dementia. More significantly, being able to interact with people from all walks of life with very diverse backgrounds, both nurses and patients, has deepened my appreciation for Singapore's multiculturalism, especially in hearing their life stories and struggles. In addition, witnessing the hospital staff's unwavering commitment, compassion and hard work has inspired me to put in my 100%, to support them and serve patients as best as I can.”
At the back of his mind, he is worried that extending his volunteer work would have repercussions on his fellow medics in camp, such as the extra duties they would have to cover and less manpower available for help. However, he expressed thanks to his superiors and SQN mates for understanding his decision, as he felt that he is already familiar with the hospital settings and would be of greater benefit to the hospital than if they spend more resources to train a new person.
3SG Chuan Han Wei, from 1 Medical Squadron, had volunteered because he could imagine the overwhelming situation in the hospitals, and wanted to lend a helping hand so that he could do his part as part of the medical community in Singapore. Even though it was daunting at the start, 3SG Han Wei has learnt how to deal, communicate, and care for different patients. Volunteering for this has not only helped him gain more knowledge medically, but also grow as a person.
“I think we truly do not thank and appreciate healthcare professionals enough, especially those in the public healthcare sector. Even though I could see that they are stretched and overwhelmed to their limits due to the increased workload at times, they never fail to amaze me with their fighting spirit to carry on and their professionalism to provide the best care for patients.”
For 3SG Savien Law, from Paya Lebar Air Base Medical Centre, felt that his experience thus far has been nothing short of enriching and fruitful. He has even volunteered to extend his service in KTPH for two weeks to help out, as he felt that his help was being appreciated by the nurses there, and interacting with patients on a day-to-day basis is something he takes delight in. Although having first-hand experience caring for elderly patients can be quite taxing at times, and meticulously giving all patients proper care is not an easy task, these have given him a renewed sense of purpose, and he is determined to do his best.
CFC Deric Lau, a Combat Medic in HQ Air Force Medical Service, felt that healthcare workers carry the tough responsibility of needing to have a strong mental fortitude, yet showing the utmost care to their patients. Although it was mentally and physically exhausting at times, the compassionate and experienced healthcare workers never hesitated to guide him through any challenges or doubts he had. To him, the healthcare workers are the “true valiant heroes”.
“It feels exhilarating and humbling at the same time. If the fight against COVID-19 could be compared to a war in the military sense, I feel like I am deep down in the trenches and on the frontlines with these noble doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. As a full-time national serviceman, it felt like I was serving my nation first-hand.
Almost all of us have been or will be in a hospital at some point of our lives, either as visitors or patients. I hope that we can all show appreciation and gratitude to our healthcare workers as their job is not easy. Their job in the hospitals is to care for our health and wellbeing, so the least we can do is to show care and kindness for them as well. A simple thanks can go a long way into making their day a better one.”
From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU to all our healthcare workers! We certainly hope that we can tide over COVID-19 soon. To everyone out there, remember to be gracious to one another, and show appreciation to our healthcare workers for putting up a powerful and relentless fight. ♥