Seacare Maritime Medical Centre (SMMC) has been responding to ship calls round the clock to provide medical treatment for seafarers. Due to stricter border control measures because of COVID-19, sick seafarers are unable to disembark to seek medical attention unless it is a medical emergency.
Fortunately, the MPA and the Port & Airport Health Unit (Port Health) have granted Dr Chia Yih Woei and his team a special permit to make ship calls during this period.
Dr Chia also remarked that SMMC has been seeing an increase in anxiety and stress related illnesses among seafarers. He noted that seafarers are not only subjected to stringent board control measures on every port, they are also unable to sign off and be repatriated. Some are also serving longer than their contractually agreed period since crew change is now a challenge. The prolonged work, inability to take shore leave, and being far from home have certainly taken a toll on seafarers. Dr Chia and his team are just thankful to be able to continue serving the shipping community in this trying time.
We would like to express our thanks to all our seafarers working tirelessly during this pandemic.
It was uncanny that in the month of May, right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that Dr Chia Yih Woei went onboard the vessel named Corona to provide medical treatment.
“Fortunately, none of the seafarers I had treated so far had COVID-19,” said the CEO of Seacare Maritime Medical Centre (SMMC) who, together with his team, has been responding tirelessly to ship calls round the clock.
Because seafarers have to adhere to the current border control measures, sick crew, in cases that do not qualify to be a medical emergency, are not allowed to disembark to seek medical attention.
“The seafarers can’t come to us at the SMMC clinic but we can go to them. We are still able to serve the shipping community,” said Dr Chia.
SMMC is one of the few medical providers listed as a Seaport Doctor by the MPA and Port Health to provide ship call services. As the Port of Singapore remains open for cargo operations and marine services, including shipyard repairs, the SMMC team is kept busy seeing patients whose vessels are on Singapore waters, docked in the port and in the shipyard as well.
Over at the SMMC clinic at Amara Corporate Tower or onboard where the seafarers are, the team is “ready, trained and experienced” in ensuring that all the stringent infection control measures are in place. “We have lived through SARS and H1N1. We will continue to take all the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.”
While non-essential medical services like health screening are disallowed for the time being, SMMC provides crew medical treatment for non-COVID-19 injuries and illnesses. SMMC is also seeing an increase in anxiety and stress-related illnesses among the seafarers.
“It is a tough time to be a seafarer now,” Dr Chia noted with empathy. “They are subjected to stringent board control measures on every port. They can’t sign off and be repatriated. Some have to serve onboard longer than their contractually agreed period since crew change is a challenging task now. The prolonged work and not being able to take shore leave can take its toll. There is also a sense of uncertainty about the COVID situation. Being far from home and worried about their loved ones can have a huge impact on their physical, mental and emotional health.”
For Dr Chia and his team at SMMC, being able to be at the forefront to show professional medical care, a word of encouragement and timely advice to the seafarers go a long way especially in this current trying environment.
“We have been serving the maritime sector for the past 20 years. The shipping companies know us and trust us to bring the good quality care to the seafarers,” Dr Chia said.
Amidst the pandemic, knowing that SMMC is accessible 24/7 brings a much-needed respite.