Medicine’s New Normal

Covid-19 snuck up on us. From the get go, we were quick to heighten screening of suspected cases, which we sent by ambulance to NCID. Everyone was on high alert.

But a lot of what we did was reactionary too. Information was sparse and screening criteria changed day by day, so we constantly adjusted to new rules, research, discoveries and best-practices.

The initial main question on every doctors’ mind was “Is this as bad as SARS?”, both in terms of mortality rate, and how it spread. Followed closely by: “Will I catch it at work?” and, more importantly, “Will I bring the disease home?”

Yes, I am a doctor –  but I am also a husband to a pregnant wife, father to a young daughter, and son to elderly parents.

 

I moved from clinic work to working at the dormitories when the migrant worker situation escalated. First, covering a medical post at the gazetted dorms, seeing workers that were ill, giving medication, swabbing those that needed swabs. The practice of medicine in pandemic times is unique, but to a degree, also oddly… normal.

Later, I took on a more planning role: strategizing, training, managing and deploying teams to factory dormitories to cope with the burgeoning needs on the ground. The considerations I make are clinical, but also social and operational.

Each decision by itself seems almost mundane. And yet, I am acutely aware that my decisions have wide and far ranging impact on the colleagues I deploy and the patients we treat.

People ask why I volunteered to help. Contrary to popular belief, not every medically trained professional is able to volunteer. There are many considerations like personal health problems, age, and health issues of the people they live with.

I was not in an “at risk” age bracket, my wife was confident she was able to handle things at home, and I had the option to self isolate; so, it made the decision easier. Clearer.

I moved out to live with another medical colleague.

The thing is, medicine as we have always known still continues. It needs to. GPs are still seeing other patients: people fall down, need their blood pressure controlled, get food poisoning, just like any other time. Just that for every patient that walks in, we remind ourselves to consider that the patient could have Covid-19.

Dr Kenneth Koh co-founded OneCare Medical in 2013 and serves as its Medical Director. A King’s College (London) alumni, he is trained in Radiological Sciences, and also holds a Graduate Diploma in Family Medicine, and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Medicine from Singapore. He is an accredited Family Physician with the College of Family Physicians, Singapore. He is also an avid photographer whose photos have graced the pages of National Geographic. He is partial to street photography, and these days, his favourite thing to photograph is his two year-old daughter, Emily.

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