By Alvin Chumari
When I was first asked to cover an event organised by the Executive Network, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, I had never heard of the group. Was the group meant to help staff ‘network’ (as the name implies) or was it recreational? Who are its members? Was it open to only ‘Executives’?
With these questions buzzing in my head, I attended a special ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) by the Executive Network.
The visit promised access to restricted areas of the hospital – the catering kitchen, clinical laboratory, central sterilisation lab, labour ward and mortuary. My initial hesitation soon turned into anticipation.
Hydro Pool and Clinical Laboratory
The first stops on our visit were the hydro pool and clinical laboratory. Used mainly by physiotherapists, specifically-designed exercise classes are conducted in the heated hydro pool to help patients regain and enhance their physical well-being.
At the clinical laboratory, we toured the biochemistry lab where blood samples were tested for glucose and cholesterol. The laboratory runs 24 hours a day and is operated by a total of 22 staff who are deployed over three shifts – the day shift which runs through office hours, the afternoon shift from 12.30pm to 9pm and the night shift from 8.30pm to 8.30am. Majority of the staff are deployed in the day with only one staff at night. Despite the lean staff count and the time-consuming test duration (an average test takes about two to three hours, not inclusive of processing time or if a test needs to be repeated), the highly automated lab is able to test up to 500 blood samples daily!
The mortuary is one of the places that is least talked about in the hospital, so when I first heard that it was on the itinerary, I was keen to find out more.
Mortuary Assistant Mr Ainol (right), who has been with KKH for eight years, shared that unlike the mortuaries in other hospitals where adult bodies and body parts are stored, the KKH mortuary mainly stores foetuses, stillborns and neonates (newborns).
Mr Ainol works closely with porters from Patient Transport Services and drivers from Transport Services. His duties include transporting the deceased from the wards to the mortuary and thereafter, cleansing the deceased’s body and wrapping them in a white cloth before passing them to their next-of-kin for burial or cremation arrangements.
The hospital’s catering kitchen and its sheer size left us all in awe. We soon realised that this was necessary as the kitchen has the enormous task of preparing an average of 2,400 inpatient meals daily (including breakfast, lunch, dinner and three snacks). Apart from serving inpatients, the kitchen also caters for staff and events, which can contribute up to an additional 800 meals per day.
The sterilisation lab is one of the most important areas of the hospital because it is where all reusable surgical instruments are cleaned and sterilised. Contaminated or used instruments are transported to the lab either by Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) or manually by staff. Although we weren’t required to gown up before entering the lab, we were given strict instructions to stay out of restricted areas and to stand behind the red line at all times. Here, I found myself being “apprehended” a couple of times while trying to take pictures.
The first step of the cleaning process is decontamination. Contaminated instruments go through an automated washer which uses strong washer jets and detergent. Fragile instruments that are unable to withstand the automated washer are washed by hand. There are also instruments that require disassembly before cleaning, so staff are taught to recognise the different parts, as well as on how to re-assemble them after cleaning.
Washed instruments are put through steam sterilisers before being left to cool down. To ensure their sanitation, all freshly cleaned and sterilised instruments are put through two tests that are countersigned by two senior staff who ensure they are safe to be returned for use.
At the delivery suite, we learned that the average labour duration for a first or second child is between 8 to 12 hours, which means amenities like the television and phone are important to the mothers-to-be. The delivery suite comes equipped with a CTG (cardiotocography) monitor to track the baby’s heart and the contractions during labour. A baby warmer, a machine that keeps the newborn warm during his or her stay with the mother, is also provided. In addition, each delivery suite comes affixed with a storeroom to allow staff quick and easy access to medical equipment and supplies, which is important should an emergency arise and if resuscitation is needed.
On a daily basis, the hospital handles about 30 to 35 deliveries, with the number rising to above 40 on auspicious days. ADN Julie Tay shared that common auspicious days include festive holidays, such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, National Day and Christmas Day. She also mentioned that some couples consult the Chinese almanac to choose an auspicious date for giving birth, such as one that does not “clash” with their own zodiac signs.
At the end of the tour, all participants, myself included, had a better understanding on some of the key processes that are crucial in the day-to-day operations of a hospital. These were particularly useful for us as healthcare workers and help us to appreciate each other’s roles. For me, what left a lasting impression was the amazing dedication and pride that each staff exhibited when explaining his or her role. It was a timely reminder to myself that everything I do impacts the healthcare outcome of patients.
We would like to thank the KKH Executive Network committee for co-hosting this behind-the-scenes visit to KKH:
Mor Jack (O&G, KKH EN Chairperson), Hui Quan (Business Office, KKH EN Vice-Chair), Sam (QSRM, KKH EN Treasurer), Adillah (SAS), Amos (OPE), Evelyn (Pharmacy), Lisa (Development), Nicky (DPLM)
About the Executive Network
The Executive Network was established in 2016 and is open to all staff, in particular, young executives in SingHealth HQ who are keen to connect with colleagues across departments. The network aims to provide a fun and relaxed platform to promote staff bonding and interactions, which can also lead to potential collaborations at work.
On top of educational tours like the KKH tour, the Executive Network organises frequent get-togethers for its members. The activities that have been lined up include a bowling session in May and a movie-cum-lunch date in June. I’ve signed myself up for the events, not to cover it for an article, but as the Executive Network’s newest member.
If you are keen to find out more about the Executive Network or join its activities, please email Bryan Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or Joyce Mak at email@example.com