25 Sep 2020
Opening Remarks by Adjunct Prof Eugene Fidelis Soh
Chairman of the WSH Council (Healthcare) Committee
at the WSH e-Forum for Healthcare Workers on 25 September 2020
Good morning to our distinguished panelists Prof Teo Yik Ying, Dr Gan Wee Hoe, A/Prof Habeebul, Mr Guillermo Frydman and Ms Ng Min Hua WSH Council (Healthcare) Committee members, industry representatives, fellow healthcare workers, Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to today’s WSH e-Forum for Healthcare Workers, organised by the Workplace Safety and Health Council.
Theme of the e-forum
1.First and foremost, I would like to thank all our healthcare workers for their selfless contributions and unwavering efforts during this challenging period. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way we work and the health and livelihood of many in Singapore. And the healthcare institutions have had to cope with unprecedented challenges and adapting to evolving circumstances since the onset of the pandemic in January.
2.The healthcare worker’s role has become ever more crucial and many have been re-deployed to manage higher-risk operations. Wards have been converted into isolation facilities. Many retired healthcare workers and temporary staff have been activated to augment our workforce strength.
3.During this time, the increased workload, the uncertainties of the situation and the sacrifices that our fellow healthcare colleagues had to grapple with, have definitely taken a toll on both our physical and mental well-being.
We must protect our healthcare workers even more so than before. Themed “Taking Care of the Safety & Health of Carers – A New Normal beyond COVID-19”, today’s e-forum aims to share, from various perspectives, how we can navigate through this difficult period together and continue to uphold workplace safety and health for the sake of our healthcare workers.
4.One way to protect our healthcare workers is to leverage technology to complement their job activities and mitigate work hazards. The pandemic has given rise to the use of the virtual platform as a way to reach out to our workforce for information sharing and training. The Ministry of Health had taken the lead by conducting a series of webinars to introduce the basics of infection prevention and control for staff working in and supporting dormitories operations so as to better protect themselves and others against COVID-19. The WSH Council fully supported the initiative by making the contents and videos from these webinars available on its website, for convenient download by dormitory operators and community facilities managers.
5.You would have heard of many telehealth initiatives to support continuing care for our patients during this period. Technology has also been deployed to support WSH efforts as the safety and well-being of our staff is paramount in order for us to manage the outbreak. Healthcare institutions have moved training online including essential training needed to keep our workforce safe during this period. Hospitals have deployed cleaning robots with Hydrogen Peroxide and UV disinfection for terminal cleaning. This protects our cleaners and ensure safety for our patients and staff. Chat bots have also been introduced at various hospitals to support staff with access to updates, safety guidelines and staff well-being resources. I am excited by our efforts to leverage technology in our WSH efforts. These are but few examples of how this crisis has given us a big push towards the use of technology at our workplaces.
6.Our WSH efforts do not stop during or after an outbreak. In fact, it needs to be stepped up in tandem with safe management and infection control. We have a number of ongoing and collaborative WSH efforts in healthcare as we enter our new normal.
7.The WSH Council had recently completed a collaborative effort with the Republic Polytechnic, to develop a series of WSH posters and learning videos for the nursing homes. Focusing on Slips, Trips and Falls, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Harassment, these posters and videos serve as a timely reminder on the importance of WSH. These resources are available for download from the WSH Council’s website.
8.The Council is also developing a WSH orientation toolkit with the industry for healthcare workers, targeted for completion in the last quarter of this year. We will work with healthcare institutions to incorporate the toolkit into their existing WSH training programmes through their Learning Management Systems.
9.Looking forward , we must embrace WSH holistically with a strong focus on both safety and health. This will include the mental health and well-being of every healthcare worker. I am thus happy to share that the WSH Council is forming a project workgroup to enhance the WSH guidelines for the healthcare industry beyond COVID-19. This guide will cover safety, health and well-being of our healthcare workers.
10.2020 has not been an easy year for all of us in fighting the outbreak. I am proud of our health system and how we responded collectively to this outbreak thus far. We must stay vigilant. In our new normal, we have much to learn and do in not wasting this crisis. Today’s e-forum is a timely effort to learn and share on our WSH efforts during this crisis and beyond. I am looking forward to hearing from our panelists today. Take care, Keep Safe and Stay Well. Thank you.