We have prepared a special feature to honour our local heroes who are working relentlessly in their respective fields to keep Singapore safe and making sure we are well taken care of. These local heroes consist of frontliners, healthcare workers as well as the unsung heroes such as our taxi drivers and food delivery personnels. During this period of uncertainty, they have stepped up to serve the nation and we can’t be more grateful! As such, we would like to show our appreciation. :)
Our frontliners and healthcare workers are no doubt the most affected by this global pandemic due to the nature of their jobs. Their day-to-day operations have been drastically affected due to the heightened measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19. Though we are not part of them, we know for sure it has been an arduous journey because this virus is one that has yet to be seen before. Nevertheless, these heroes in the healthcare sector are doing their best in the fight and we can’t help but be in awe by their selflessness.
We interviewed a few healthcare workers carrying different roles in order to have some insights on what is happening in the healthcare sector. (We have gotten the consent of our respondents for this interview and they have opted to stay anonymous.)
1. How has the COVID-19 situation affected your day-to-day operations?
General practitioner: I have to gown up for all fever and flu cases so it has become more troublesome. There is a need to do travel declarations as well which makes it more work administratively I guess.
Nurse: I think for healthcare workers, more stringent policies are put into place, such as taking our temperature twice daily and reporting back to our organisation, be it if we are on duty or not. We also have to practise social distancing even in work areas such as separating tables and chairs in our pantry and staggering breaks so that there would not be a huge crowd while eating together. We are also wearing N95 masks even in medium/low risk wards - it is really stuffy to wear it the whole shift and it makes it more troublesome to even get a sip of water!
Therapist: There is definitely heightened hygiene and social distancing. We are also delaying non-urgent appointments.
Pediatrician: I work in the Children's Emergency and ever since COVID-19 arrived on our shores, my department has made multiple adjustments to reduce risk of transmission. For instance, doctors are split into separate teams and we work for longer shifts. The consult area is also divided into fever vs non-fever zones to cater to different patients' needs. The situation is very fluid and ever-changing!
Pharmacist: With the exponential increase of COVID cases in Singapore, hospitals have been opening more wards dedicated to the care of COVID patients and transferring staff from wards to healthcare. I am not involved in the care of the COVID patients personally. The general consensus among my colleagues is that there are more patients and slightly fewer staff. Of course, we also have to don our personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and wash our hands more often.
2. Are there any difficulties you face while working in the healthcare sector amidst the current situation?
General practitioner: The risk of infection is much higher for healthcare workers so the fear is there. Our normal day-to-day cases have also shifted towards more flu cases and away from elective cases.
Nurse: I wouldn't say there are difficulties, more like changes that needs to be implemented to suit the increased demand of current healthcare needs in Singapore. It is definitely hard to cope with the increased workload and I guess everyone is trying to find out the most suitable way to work things around. My heart goes out to our fellow colleagues who can't go back to their hometowns to see their family. They have worked so hard and anticipated their leave but are unable to go on leave due to the current situation.
Therapist: Apart from the slight inconveniences (e.g. fewer entries, wearing masks 24/7), not really since we’re already expected to practice good hygiene etc.
Pediatrician: It is challenging to manage the expectations of the public as we handle a fair share of parental anxiety, understandably so in this time of crisis. Wearing personal protective equipment for prolonged periods of time also leaves us gasping for air. On a more personal level, I worry about being exposed to the virus and bringing the disease back to my family at home, hence resulting in obsessive cleaning/washing/scrubbing haha. Will probably need to buy more skincare products soon!
3. Do you have any memorable episodes to share while working on the frontlines during this trying period?
General practitioner: I had a Malaysian work permit holder who lost his job and came to get a memo to cross back into Malaysia but he had a flu and I couldn’t certify him. I ended up giving him a stay-home notice for 5 days. He didn’t have lodging and had no pay so he was stuck in Singapore. He even had to get help from MOM.
Therapist: Not really, just very thankful to all the healthcare workers who work in direct contact with the cases.
Pediatrician: It hasn't been easy on the front lines but we have honestly received so much support and encouragement - It makes my heart swell. From the generous food sponsors providing us with free meals (also sometimes free bubble tea!), to our adorable young patients who babble "take care doctor" when they leave, these are the moments that keep us going. Thank you for appreciating our service.
Pharmacist: We have implemented visiting restrictions on patients. Currently, only one designated visitor is allowed in the ward at any one time during a specific visiting time in a day. I have seen many patients get down and disheartened now that they are unable to see their loved ones. Memorably, I remember an elderly female patient with dementia getting increasingly agitated because she was unable to meet her husband.
4. Any words of advice for our fellow Singaporeans?
General practitioner: Adhere to social distancing. Don’t go to work if you are sick and this applies to workers for an essential service because we still see this happening.
Nurse: I think everyone can do their part by staying at home! Although it might be quite boring, but think about those who are out there fighting against this COVID situation. It is very scary to know that the numbers are still increasing despite the pseudo-lockdown. To make this fight a shorter one, we all need to come together and do what we can. Indeed, the first responses towards uncertainty are probably fear and anxiety. However, as we are learning more about the situation that we are in, we need to have faith and trust that the government and frontline workers are doing their best to put a stop to this. Be responsible not just for yourself, but for others as well. I can't emphasise this enough - to maximise the time staying at home and minimise the hoarding culture. Jiayous SG we can fight and win this battle together!
Therapist: Practise social distancing! You never think you would be the one who gets it and you definitely won’t want to be the one who spreads it! Think about others around you – call the older folks who might be isolated, and think about those who might not be able to get the groceries they need.
Pediatrician: I think there have been abundant reminders on public platforms for all to stay home, but do remember to stay happy and stay healthy too! While doing so, I would also like to urge everyone to look out for your neighbours - where vulnerable populations could be hiding - and lend a helping hand when the need arises. We will overcome this pandemic together (:
Pharmacist: Stay at home, wear a mask and wash your hands!
We have also interviewed a few taxi drivers and food delivery personnels in order to understand more about what they face on the ground. These people are important too, in our fight against this global pandemic as they are the ones who are taking risks in ensuring that we are still able to travel for essentials and also get the food we need. (We have also gotten consent from our respondents for this interview and they have opted to remain anonymous.)
1. How has the COVID-19 situation affected your operations?
Taxi driver: My earnings have been badly affected with a 70% drop in earnings as it has been harder to get customers with so many people working from home and with the schools all closed.
Food delivery personnel A: Personally, as a delivery rider, I feel that it has affected us both in good and bad ways. During this period, many have started ordering from home which is good for us as we get many orders. However, many unemployed workers have also decided to join this industry which means that there is less chance for us getting a job/order.
Food delivery personnel B: With more delivery riders being hired, my salary has been affected, with orders being spilt among more people.
2. What are some difficult situations that you have encountered while driving passengers/delivering items?
Taxi driver: I didn’t meet any difficult situations but there are times when we have to go into carparks to pick up customers and they did not mention that we need to pay for the carpark fee, so we have to absorb those extra charges by ourselves.
Food delivery personnel A: For a delivery rider, it’s just more troublesome to get into the shopping malls, but other than that it’s all good.
Food delivery personnel B: Not really, but nowadays, it takes more time to enter shopping malls.
3. What are some of the nicest things your customers have said to you or done for you during this period?
Taxi driver: So far, if the customers pay in cash, some of them would just say keep the change.
Food delivery personnel A: One of my customers sent me a message to stay safe. It’s nothing much but I felt that it was a really nice gesture. (:
Food delivery personnel B: Some customers will give me tips when I deliver orders to them.
4. Any words of encouragement or advice you would like to share with the community?
Taxi driver: The situation will get better and let’s try to get through this.
Food delivery personnel A: It’s not the end of the world, don’t panic. Just stay home and keep in contact with each other virtually. (:
Food delivery personnel B: Stay home and keep safe and healthy! We have to stay strong during this period.
We hope that you ladies enjoyed hearing from our local heroes!
Let's show our support and appreciation for them by making sure that we stay home and giving a shout-out on social media platforms or online for them. We can also look out for the people around us in the community and give a helping hand when needed.
With the recent surge in cases, we would like to emphasise the importance of staying home and staying safe. Be strong now, because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can't rain forever. (: