170 swab booths trialled


New strategy: Selected clinics in Singapore will be able to provide Covid-19 testing to patients with acute respiratory infection symptoms. — The Straits Times/ANN

SWAB booths are now located at 170 clinics islandwide to allow those with shortness of breath and cough or showing any sign of a Covid-19 infection to get tested while bolstering the safety of the general practitioners (GPs), clinic staff and their patients.

It is in line with the national effort to ramp up testing capacities with Singapore having moved into phase two of its reopening.

The clinics are part of a 900-wide network of Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) spread across the island, out of which 400 are equipped to allow anyone aged 13 and above diagnosed with acute respiratory infection (ARI) symptoms to get tested for Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health had previously said that the strategy is to test everyone diagnosed with ARI once there is sufficient testing capacity.

The swab booths, built using an aluminium frame and polycarbonate panels, are lightweight and mobile. They were developed by local engineering company ATC and sponsored by Temasek Foundation.

Known as Cosmo-Slim, they have been on trial since the end of July to equip PHPCs with safe and effective mobile swabbing capabilities, said chief executive of Temasek Foundation Ng Boon Heong.

He added that the booths allowed the 170 clinics to be “better protected while swabbing patients displaying symptoms of acute respiratory infections immediately at their clinic’s practice, without having to send them to another location”.

Swab tests are also available at Regional Screening Centres, a network the Health Promotion Board is expanding. With testing capacities enhanced, the load on other facilities such as hospitals will be lowered, according to doctors.

Dr Teo Boon See, who was among the GPs who helped design the swab booth, said having one at her clinic would make swabbing more convenient for patients while ensuring the safety of the staff involved.

“Sometimes, patients sneeze and cough as they are swabbed. Having a swab booth protects the doctor from coming into contact with their respiratory droplets,” said Dr Teo, who sees many elderly patients.

“When patients are swabbed at their neighbourhood GPs, they can go home to await their test results instead of having to go to other testing centres to get their swabs done.

“There’s also an added sense of comfort and familiarity for patients who may be squirmish about getting swabbed if it’s their regular GP administering the test,” she added.

Based on previous feedback, the booth’s design was made slimmer and more compact so that it could easily be pushed through doorways.

Doctors are required to put on personal protective equipment when conducting the swab tests, and they are encouraged to use the booth outdoors, in quiet areas with low human traffic, or in a well-ventilated room inside the clinic.

Panels on the booth are made of a frosted material to ensure patient privacy while latex gloves are affixed to a panel separating the swabber from the patient, where doctors insert their hands to collect the swab sample. — The Straits Times/ANN

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