SINGAPORE – Several polyclinics recorded low attendance on Saturday afternoon (February 26), despite an abrupt extension of their usual opening hours to help cope with the surge of Covid-19 in Singapore.
But a steady flow of patients was seen at nearby GP clinics, with some people saying they were unaware the polyclinics were still open.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday evening that six polyclinics will see patients on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning for the next two weeks, starting February 26.
The six are Bukit Panjang, Eunos, Kallang, Pioneer, Punggol and Woodlands polyclinics.
Polyclinics generally close between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays and are not open on Sundays. But those with extended opening hours will also operate from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday.
During these extended hours, the polyclinics will only receive patients with acute respiratory symptoms and people who have tested positive for Covid-19. Those who need care for other conditions are advised to see a GP, the Department of Health said.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung earlier announced that about 170 public health preparedness clinics had also agreed to extend opening hours by two weeks from Friday to spread the patient load.
The Straits Times reported earlier that some clinics are hiring people and asking staff to work extra shifts to achieve this.
Singapore has seen more than 10,000 cases of Covid-19 every day since mid-February as the country grapples with a spike in the number of infections caused by the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Health reported 16,714 locally transmitted cases. A total of 1,553 people have been hospitalized with the virus, with 212 needing oxygen and 50 in intensive care.
The weekly infection growth rate was 1.21, meaning the number of daily new cases continues to rise.
When The Straits Times visited three polyclinics on Saturday afternoon, all were quiet, with fewer than 10 patients seen entering over an hour period.
One of them was 18-year-old Rayner Lim, who was receiving medication at Bukit Panjang Polyclinic after testing positive for Covid-19.
“GPs near me are always crowded so I decided to try my luck with the polyclinic as it has extended opening hours,” he said.