The NUS community is sparing no effort to make the stay of patients as comfortable as possible, as they start moving into the 28 blocks of Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR) that have been converted into a Community Recovery Facility (CRF).
PGPR will provide a conducive environment as these patients recover from their COVID-19 infections, before they return to their places of accommodation.
As these patients are already clinically well, special programmes are also been planned in the areas of exercise, enrichment, and entertainment to aid in their recovery and lift their spirits.
“We hope to provide our ‘guest students’ - the patients - with the NUS brand of hospitality at this CRF,” said Mr Koh Yan Leng, Associate Vice President (Campus Life) from the NUS Office of the Senior Vice President (Campus Infrastructure).
“While the primary function of the CRF is to prepare them for their last mile on their journey to full recovery, we would like to ensure that their stay experience is great and also inject some fun and spirit of what NUS is all about as an Institute of Higher Learning.”
As part of the national effort to combat COVID-19, PGPR will serve as a CRF from 18 May till July, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye announced in a letter to the University community on 14 May.
CRFs are meant for patients who remain well at the end of their 14th day of illness and who do not require further medical care. They will not be able to leave the CRF during their stay, and will return to their respective accommodations following the recovery period.
The CRF at PGPR will be operated by a managing agent appointed by the authorities. About 2,900 rooms will be used to house and isolate patients who are recovering from the disease.
Preparations have been in full swing to ensure that the patients will have the necessities for a comfortable stay. With the rooms only recently vacated at the end of the semester, the rooms and common areas have had to be quickly and thoroughly cleaned. Clean bed linen and adequate cleaning materials have also been prepared for the incoming guests.
To help Muslim patients perform their daily prayers, stickers indicating the “kiblat” — direction of Mecca — have been pasted in the individual PGPR rooms.
As the patients arrive, they will be shown a video welcoming them to PGPR, introducing the facility, sharing safety and health-related tips, and telling them what to expect over the next few days.
Year 4 NUS Nursing student Tang Yang Yew participated in the video where he welcomed the patients to the CRF, assured them of Singapore’s medical care, and talked about the activities lined up.
“I think the outreach is a good idea. I stay on campus, and the facilities are great. It’s good they have a good, safe and clean environment to ride out this period,” said Yang Yew.
The video has been translated into the patients’ respective mother tongues for ease of understanding. For each language, an NUS staff member or student has provided a voice-over and subtitles. The staff member or student also appears in front of the camera to deliver a specially-tailored welcome in that particular language.
“At facilities like the CRF at PGPR, communication could have been overlooked, given that the mother tongue of the patients is often not English. I hope that by providing translation and recording services, I can contribute in my own way to break down the communication barriers, and ease their stay at PGPR,” said Dr Sreenivasulu Bellam, Senior Lecturer and Resident Fellow at NUS Residential College 4, who provided the voice-over and introduction in Telugu.
“Furthermore, when we communicate in their language, they will feel more supported emotionally and psychologically, and confident that they are not alone,” he added.
Third year NUS Pharmacy student Myat Thu Kyaw provided the Burmese translation and voice-over. He hopes that the efforts to overcome the language barriers will help the patients feel more welcome, less worried, and more integrated into the Singapore community.
“This is part of the ‘many helping hands’ approach that Singapore uses to tackle social issues… I felt the obligation to serve and utilise my fluency in both English and Burmese to produce something actionable, practical and helpful.”
He is also part of an ad-hoc translation group that is on standby to help with any translation requirements, such as when a patient seeks medical attention. In such cases, an NUS volunteer translator will dial in when the patient meets the doctor, to help both parties better understand each other. The group will also help to translate any written materials, such as medical information.
NUS Law Master’s student Mayuri Verma is also part of the translation group.
"Since I have some prior knowledge of Bengali, I hope to help the patients understand some of the medical issues or procedures as they may not be very fluent in English,” she said.
Enriching activities planned
A myriad of activities have been planned for the duration of the patients’ stay. The programmes have been tailored to their needs and interests, based on experience of NUS staff and students who have been reaching out to workers for many years. Special effort has been taken to ensure that the programmes and materials have been translated into the patients’ respective mother tongues.
These workers constitute an important part of the workforce in Singapore but they are often under-recognised, noted Associate Professor Ho Han Kiat, Vice Dean of Students at the NUS Office of Student Affairs.
“NUS is proud to be hosting patients in our hostels. Many students and professors have volunteered to be translators and coordinators in a daily ‘curriculum’ we have put together for them. The patients will be with us for only a week before they return to their own accommodations… We hope this one week will allow NUS to show, in small part, how much we value and appreciate what they have done,” added Assoc Prof Ho.
“We celebrate with them as they ‘graduate’, healthy and strong.”
NUS Kent Ridge Hall will also tap on its experience in organising activities for workers, as it produces online material, short video clips, and quizzes on financial literacy for the patients. Topics include Internet banking, remittances and budgeting.
“Here is where we hope to come in and offer any help we can. We will share what we can on these topics,” said resident Melvina Yeo, a Year 3 NUS Social Work major.
Kent Ridge Hall Master Dr Ng Kah Loon, who is also Assistant Dean at NUS Science, said, “The situation faced by the patients during the current COVID-19 pandemic resonates with many members of our hall because we have interacted with many of them in the past.”
He hopes that during their short stay on campus, the patients will be able to pick up useful skills and that these can be beneficial to them in the long run.
“The hope is that the spirit of giving and helping others will continue to grow amongst all the residents here in Kent Ridge Hall.”
Grace Cheong from the NUS College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT) is co-leading a team of about 20 College residents in planning a series of activities for the patients, including exercise, dancing, and drawing. The group is also planning educational materials on topics such as phone scams and the prevention of back injuries to engage the patients during their stay.
“Based on our prior engagements with workers, we’ve realised that we cannot categorise them as one homogenous community. There are so many nationalities and so many occupations, and we are learning from them all the time,” said Grace, a first year NUS English Language and Literature student.
“Considering all that we have been able to discover, it’s important to assist in their recovery.”
CAPT has visited workers’ dormitories every semester as part of its learning, shared Associate Professor Tan Lai Yong, Director for Outreach and Community Engagement at CAPT.
“The workers are always so welcoming; answering our questions even though they have had a long day of hard labour. The workers were helping us to discover and to learn. Now that they are staying in NUS, we feel it is our privilege to help them recover (from COVID-19),” said Assoc Prof Tan.