Barricades, temperature scanners and metal detector walk-throughs were up at the NHCS atrium on a balmy weekday afternoon. The situation was reminiscence of the Covid-19 triage operations except it was a regular day in November 2023, long after the eventful DORSCON Orange in 2020. 

Singapore may be living in an endemic period now but the safety and security of our patients and staff remain a priority. The triage set up was part of the Disease Outbreak Dry Run Exercise to test NHCS preparedness in disease outbreak management and triage operations processes such as lift access control, management of entry and exit points of NHCS, as well as the coordination of staff and execution of plans. 

Bringing plans to life
The dry run tested an all-familiar scenario of increasing alert of DORSCON Level to Orange, with frequent advisories and updates from MOH that a disease outbreak situation is imminent. In DORSCON Orange, all public healthcare institutions are to conduct Mass Fever Screening, that is temperature screening of all individuals entering their respective building premises via triaging.

“To ensure the dry run was meaningful, the scenario was planned to be as realistic as possible. For example, upon the notification of DORSCON Orange and the directives from NHCS management and the Disease Outbreak Taskforce, the teams must establish triage stations within a stipulated timeframe, with lift access control and security checks activated,” shared Jimmy Sum, Assistant Director, Operations (Support Services) who facilitated the exercise. 

(L-R): Setup of barricades and various screening points were completed speedily upon scenario activation including the calibration of thermal scanners and setup of a walk-through metal detector, hand-held metal detector and station for physical checks of belongings.

A new element was also added to the exercise. “In light of the global security climate, it is paramount that NHCS continues to tighten security controls and be prepared for any possible threat we may face. Based on an earlier security assessment we conducted, we had provisioned for new equipment – walk-through metal detectors and hand-held metal detectors – to facilitate checks of persons and their belongings. This exercise was opportune for security staff to test and familiarise themselves with the new equipment,” said Amber Yeong, Chief Operating Officer. 

Kelvin Dui, Security Supervisor shared, “These yearly exercises are useful in refreshing the knowledge of all our security officers who are trained and certified to ensure that we are always prepared for such situations, especially during heightened security alerts.”

Everyone has a part to play
The uncertainties in the global health and security climate in recent years have amplified the awareness of disease outbreak and emergency preparedness of healthcare staff and public alike, and it was evident in everyone’s positive response towards the exercise.

“The patients and visitors we encountered during the dry run were cooperative and expressed understanding towards the necessity of the exercise. We also ensured that patients requiring more support such as the wheelchair-bound and pregnant ladies were rendered the assistance required to make their experience a smooth one,” shared Muhammad Zulfathi Bin Mohamed, Senior Executive, Operations (Support Services). 

Patients and visitors understood the importance of the exercise and went through the various stations and security checkpoints cooperatively.

Staff volunteers from various departments also participated in the exercise to be ushers to assist patients and visitors. Jimmy shared, “When we requested for volunteers, several departments responded to the call which made the planning process and actual exercise smoother. The dry run wouldn’t have been a success without the contribution of all departments.”

NHCS would like to express their appreciation to all observers and participants of the exercise, including staff volunteers from Advance Care Planning, Cardiac Laboratory, Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit, Corporate Development, Quality Assurance and Risk Management, and Finance.