Fighting COVID-19: Interview with Dr Iroshini Chua

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As Singapore goes into a circuit breaker because of the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses such as the F&B industry are taking a big hit, and many others are encouraged to practise telecommuting or cease operations unless absolutely necessary. But for frontline warriors  such as doctors, healthcare workers and other service providers such as cleaners in the healthcare sector, work doesn’t stop and many of them are putting their lives on the line while helping people who are affected by the disease.

Dr Iroshini Chua, together with her husband Dr Kevin Chua, are also part of these resilient healthcare fighters in Singapore. While their practice focuses on aesthetic procedures, the couple have partnered with the government as part of the Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPC), where primary care clinics respond to public health emergencies through a single scheme for better management.

As we continue the battle with the virus, Dr Iroshini Chua tells us the measures they’ve put in place at Dr Kevin Chua Medical & Aesthetics.

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How is a typical day now different from before the virus outbreak?

On a typical day, we do procedures such as pigment and tattoo removal, scar revision, facial rejuvenation and body contouring for our aesthetic patients while attending to the acute and chronic care needs of our medical patients. We no longer do aesthetic procedures at the moment, until further notice. However, we have partnered with the Singapore government as a PHPC in this battle against COVID-19. We are also taking our medical consultations online via Doctor Anywhere. Our usual working hours are from 10am to 8pm but now we see about 50 patients a day online sometimes until midnight.

What are some of the precautionary measures now at the clinic?

We screen everyone outside the doors by taking their temperatures and getting travel and health declarations from them. All staff members and doctors at our clinic are required to take our temperatures daily. For those who display respiratory symptoms, we don the full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including N95 masks and gloves, and see them in a separate space away from where our procedures were carried out. Our spaces are regularly sanitised according to MOH guidelines and hand sanitisers are placed strategically all around for our staff members and patients to use.

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How is your family supporting your work now?

Our children have always understood that our patients’ welfare are important. For the first time, we have brought our work home in the form of tele-consults. They are understanding of our extended work hours and even help press the “accept” call button on our device. Even our dogs are quieter when a patient calls in!

Any advice to Prestige readers on how to stay positive at this dire time?

Trust the government. They’ve managed to do a good job thus far. Our healthcare system is still able to cope with this despite the rocketing numbers worldwide. Singaporeans as a whole have largely followed medical advice and adjusted to new norms. We went through the SARS crisis and took a lot of lessons learnt and applied them to our current situation. Stay positive.

“This is the time for us to step up. We can celebrate together later when life returns to normal.”

What is one good thing that you have noticed during this outbreak?

The community spirit is strong. I see many people focusing their attention on family and have uninterrupted time with them.

Any other bright moments?

Doctors around the world including my classmates have started communicating and sharing information. We are all stretched with no end in sight, and having poor sleep but we remain connected and encourage one other because we are all on common ground.

What else keeps you going in a tough time like now?

I read my late mother’s letters that she had written to me when I was in medical school in Ireland. Along with words of wisdom such as living a life winning the hearts of people, they expressed an ache in her own that I was far from my family. She said to focus on getting my medical degree while I was still young because there will be many years to revel after. Many of us in the healthcare industry spent the best years of our lives away from family and invested many hours learning an art and science that we would lead to decades of service. This is the time for us to step up. We can celebrate together later when life returns to normal.

There must always be faith, love and hope.


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