With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, SCDF’s emergency responders worked round-the-clock, including conveying COVID-19 patients to the hospital.
Earlier this month in mid-February, we commemorated Total Defence Day. In Total Defence, everyone has a part to play to ensure the safety and security of our nation. For SCDF, the focus is providing the safety of the community so that life can go on as normal as possible during and after emergencies.
Rescue 995 engaged paramedic SGT2 Gwen Ong Sock Puay and emergency medical technician (EMT) SSG Mohammad Aliff Bin Rosli as they shared their experiences during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) SSG Mohammad Aliff Bin Rosli with the Jump Bag, a vital instrument that contains various medical equipment required for every emergency response.
SSG Mohammad Aliff, 28, became a member of the Lifesaving Force in 2014 after a 2-year stint as a full-time SCDF National Serviceman and is now an EMT.
Paramedic SGT2 Gwen Ong Sock Puay carrying the defibrillator, a device that restores a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse to the heart of a patient.
SGT2 Gwen Ong, 29, was a veterinary technician before becoming a member of the Lifesaving Force in September 2015. A year later, she embarked on her full-time Home Team Diploma and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Scholarship in Nursing and Paramedicine and thereafter resumed her career as a paramedic in April 2019.
Rescue 995: What inspired you to join the Lifesaving Force?
SSG Aliff: I remember during the last few months of my National Service with SCDF, I attended to a major road traffic accident. I was a Section Commander then. When my team and I arrived at the accident scene, we did our best to rescue a casualty trapped inside the car. It was not only an eye-opening experience for me as a young 19-year-old team leader but left a significant impact on my life. I knew that this is something I want to do and that made me sign on with SCDF.
SGT2 Gwen: I was contemplating to either become a nurse or join SCDF as a paramedic. The dynamic job scope of a paramedic such as conducting quick diagnosis, prompt intervention and treatment for the patient at the scene of emergency, as well as a sense of satisfaction when patients get well, was what motivated me to become a member of the Lifesaving Force.
Rescue 995: It had been a year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has it changed your perspective about your role as an EMT/Paramedic?
SSG Aliff: I was posted to Alexandra Fire Station as an EMT just two months before the onset of COVID-19 in Singapore. At that time, I was still trying to adapt to my new role as an EMT. Although there were additional procedures to follow when we were on duty, such as donning the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when attending to emergency cases however our main aim remains the same that is to ensure that the patients are well taken care of at the end of the day. In fact, the pandemic placed us in the spotlight on what we do.
SGT2 Gwen: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was a frightening and unprecedented phenomenon for me. There are a lot of safety measures to follow such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. As emergency first responders, we have to don the PPE, which is not a very comfortable suit to put on in our humid environment but it must be worn to protect ourselves and the patients we are treating. At the initial phase of the pandemic, there was a lack of information globally about the virus and thus public anxiety was heightened. As paramedics, we know that we are to expect the unexpected in our line of duty and when the pandemic struck, it reminded me of how crucial our role is in society.
Rescue 995: What was your main concern when COVID-19 struck Singapore last year?
SGT2 Gwen: There were news that the elderly is more vulnerable to COVID-19 and that young children may be asymptomatic. Hence, I was concerned that my colleagues and I would bring the virus home and passed it on to our family members.
SSG Aliff: I share the same concern too. There was always this lingering worry that I might unknowingly contract the virus and affected my loved ones, especially my grandmother.
Rescue 955: Share with us one of your memorable incidents as an emergency first responder when conveying suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
SGT2 Gwen: My crew and I attended to a suspected COVID-19 case in one of the dormitories that housed migrant workers. The foreign worker was in his early 20s and was wheezing badly, looking as though he was about to collapse. We had to send him to the nearest hospital after our diagnosis. Initially, the man was very anxious, uncooperative and refused to be sent to the hospital. We also had a tough time teaching him how to use the inhaler due to the language barrier. But amid all this, the man took out his phone and pointed to a picture of his spouse. It was such an emotional, tear-jerking moment for him and us, and all we could do was to console him and affirm that he would be well taken care of. Thereafter, he was calm and more assured, and finally agreed to be conveyed to the hospital.
SSG Aliff: A case that left a deep impression on me was when I had to convey a teenage girl to KK Women's and Children's Hospital. She was placed on quarantine in a hotel that was designated as a quarantine facility. She and her sister were in separate rooms and were not allowed to see or interact with each other. Being a teenager who was quarantined in a foreign country and suspected to have contracted the virus must have been such a frightening experience for her. This incident clearly reminded me that everyone is vulnerable to the virus and we must never, ever take things for granted.
Rescue 995: Earlier this month we commemorated Total Defence Day. What does it mean for you as a member of the Lifesaving Force?
SSG Aliff: Total Defence reminds me that each of us has a part to play to ensure the safety and security of our nation. A good example is during the COVID-19 pandemic where everyone has to be self-disciplined and takes responsibility for himself/herself and for the larger good of society by wearing face masks and minimising contact through social distancing.
SGT2 Gwen: To me, COVID-19 reinforces the importance of Total Defence. It is a collective national effort, where every individual is doing his/her part to comply with the safety measures. For us in SCDF, we do our utmost to ensure that the public is safe and receives the needed assistance and best care.