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Covid-19: MOH recategorises allied health services as essential services during circuit breaker period

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has recategorised allied health services such as counselling and social work that are conducted outside public healthcare institutions as essential services.

The Ministry of Health said that even with the change, allied health professionals will have to continue to adhere to safe distancing, crowd management and the use of personal protective equipment measures.

The Ministry of Health said that even with the change, allied health professionals will have to continue to adhere to safe distancing, crowd management and the use of personal protective equipment measures.

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SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has recategorised allied health services such as psychology and social work that are conducted outside public healthcare institutions as essential services.

This means that members of the public will be able to receive these services, as well as rehabilitation, therapy, podiatric and dietetic services, in person from Wednesday (April 29).

Before this, with safe distancing and other restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19, the MOH had listed such services as non-essential, and they were only allowed to be carried out through teleconsultations. Exceptions were made for patients with unstable mental health conditions, including those who might be in danger of harming themselves or others.

In response to media queries on Tuesday, MOH said restrictions would be in place for the provision of allied health services to ensure that overall movement and interactions among people are minimised during this period.

These include keeping therapy sessions on a one-to-one basis, and prioritising face-to-face consultations for patients whose condition may significantly or rapidly deteriorate and thus threatening their health if they do not receive treatment.

“All allied health professionals will also have to continue to adhere to the prevailing safe distancing, crowd management and (use of) personal protective equipment measures,” MOH said.

Given that most outpatient allied health services can be delivered through teleconsultation, the ministry also urged providers to deliver their outpatient services using this method, in order to reduce the risk of potential exposure of patients to coronavirus infections.

FACE-TO-FACE CONSULTATIONS BETTER FOR SOME  

Ms Jeslyn Lim, founder of psychological centre MindCulture and co-founder of therapy clinic Thrive Psychology Clinic, said that face-to-face consultations are especially important in providing effective therapy to patients. 

“We have to observe how the client or patient is behaving or responding to us. Video-conferencing is tough because sometimes, you can see only the client’s face and you cannot really hear the tone in his or her voice,” Ms Lim said.

Her clinics, which provide therapy and other services to around 80 people, will be open for face-to-face consultation sessions from Wednesday.

Dr Shawn Ee, 40, director of private psychology clinic The Psych Practice, also supported the move for face-to-face consultations and said that his clinic will also reopen on Wednesday.

“While we completely understand the need to control the virus from spreading, some personalities do not do very well through teleconsultations and may feel uncomfortable with it.” 

He added that a few patients had chosen to discontinue therapy through video-conferencing calls after psychology services were listed as non-essential, but decided to resume after the Government said that the circuit breaker would be extended until June 1. 

Mrs Anita Low-Lim, senior director of non-profit organisation Touch Community Services’ Integrated Family Group, said that its social workers play an especially crucial role in these times, when many families have been hit by job losses or severe pay cuts.

“Making it essential for allied services such as social work... and mental health work to continue will allow us to better serve the community in this time of change and uncertainty, and we look forward to doing so while adhering to measures to keep both our staff members and clients safe,” she said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MANDY LEE AND MATTHEW LOH 

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus circuit breaker mental health MOH teleconsultation allied health essential services

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