SINGAPORE: The recent spike in COVID-19 cases has led to a substantial increase in the number of individuals seeking medical attention at 24-hour family clinics, causing a surge in patient volumes and longer waiting times. Several clinics report a hefty increase of 30 to 40 per cent in patient numbers, with some experiencing double figures on weekends.

Minmed 24-hour family clinic in Jurong Point is one such facility facing high patient numbers. The registration to consultation process now takes one to two hours, a significant extension from the previous average half-hour wait. The clinic noted a tripling in coronavirus cases, with peak congestion occurring from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

To manage the increased demand, the clinic is contemplating additional staffing at the counter and recruiting one more doctor to accommodate the influx of patients.

DoctorAnywhere (DA) group, which manages nine clinics, including a 24-hour facility in Ang Mo Kio, is also grappling with the surge.

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A notable trend DA noted is the preference among patients for remote telemedicine consultations due to overcrowding concerns. Remote consultations now constitute 20 to 30 per cent of patient interactions. In response, the group has deployed approximately 40 additional doctors to the remote consultation team, ensuring a roster of about 100 doctors available for virtual appointments.

During peak hours, when in-person consultations result in a wait time of 30 to 40 minutes and occasionally over an hour, DA Clinic staff recommends patients utilize their online service. Online consultations boast a shorter waiting time of 5 to 10 minutes, providing a viable alternative for those seeking swift medical attention.

Another clinic also revealed that during the past weekend alone, they attended to 200 patients daily, with a staggering 80 per cent of cases related to acute respiratory infections. On weekdays, waiting times range from 20 minutes to an hour, while on weekends, patients may experience delays of 30 minutes to an hour and a half.