Dr Goh Siew Hor: Co-ordinating our Response to COVID-19 – A Look Behind the Scenes

Dr Goh doing a dental check-up for a Nursing Home resident, at our Mobile Dental Clinic. (PHOTO: STRAITSTIMES.COM)

In this article, we speak with the man co-ordinating NTUC Health’s COVID-19 response – Head of Clinical Services, Dr Goh Siew Hor, to hear his thoughts and experiences through this pandemic.

Dr Goh talked about how NTUC Health’s Pandemic Response Team comprising key representatives from our various services and functions was set up in January this year. “As a management team, we understood right from the start how important it was to have clear communication from a single channel so that we can quickly convey important instructions and minimise confusion on the ground.” He further shared how efforts were closely coordinated across all divisions at NTUC Health as the outbreak worsened.

“The advisories from the government came fast and furious, and we had to ensure the everyone was on the same page so that frontline could receive clear instructions.”

Recounting some of the challenges, Dr Goh highlighted many difficult decisions that had to be made, such as travel policy. “We have foreign staff who would naturally be worried about their families back home, but we are also caring for a vulnerable group of elderly and cannot afford to take risks. We decided to postpone all non-essential travel before Singapore implemented travel restrictions overseas, though exceptions were still made on a case by case basis for staff with emergency family matters.”

Another challenge was the shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). “There was a worldwide shortage and we needed to decide how to rationalise use without putting staff in unnecessary risk. One of the things we did was to track usage of the PPE, and also to distribute based on need.”

Appropriate quantities of PPE had to be distributed to staff to ensure their safety, while making sure that there was enough to last through the shortage.

Dr Goh shared that NTUC Health has always taken a person-centred approach, even in this pandemic. “Although there are sacrifices to be made, such as limiting visitors or restricting staff interaction, we are always focused on what is in the best interests of staff and clients. I believe what is important is to maintain honest, open communication with staff and clients, because what will keep us together is a strong trusting relationship.”

In such challenging times, Dr Goh felt encouraged to witness how many are still able to care for others despite being affected. “It was quite touching to read about initiatives of hawkers who were offering free food to those affected by the pandemic. It reminded me of our work at NTUC Health, with so many Everyday Heroes making their own personal sacrifices and taking initiative to care for their clients.”

Dr Goh is also no stranger to helping others. In his free time, he volunteers at Bethany Nursing Home, which he has been with since 2000. He also works with Christian groups on mission trips to provide dental services to disadvantaged groups.

Dr Goh volunteering to help bag apples, when NTUC Fairprice outlets could not cope with restocking shelves due to panic buying following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr Goh, volunteering dental services at MWS Bethany Nursing Home.

A practising dentist, Dr Goh was recently appointed President of the Singapore Dental Association (SDA), a professional association for dentists in Singapore. Since taking office on 19 July, Dr Goh has focused on improving the structure of the organisation to ensure assets are well protected while engaging members to hear their concerns.

In NTUC Health, besides seeing patients at our Denticare Clinic at Thomson Plaza several times a week, Dr Goh spends time with the Clinical Operations team comprising staff from Denticare, Family Medicine Clinic and more recently the Allied Health Centre of Excellence, to ensure that business development and clinical standards are on track.

Dr Goh’s belief in serving others stems from his Christian conviction that he was blessed to be a blessing to others.

 “Being able to help others is only possible because I have first been blessed with so much. Through these activities, I recognise that it is so easy to take many things for granted. It also brings me meaning as what I do is able to make a positive impact to those around me.”