Medicine’s New Normal (Dr. Kenneth Koh)

Covid-19 snuck up on us. From the get go, we were quick to heighten screening  of suspect cases, with these being sent by ambulance to NCID. Everyone was on high alert. 

But a lot of what we did was reactionary too. Information was sparse, screening criteria would also change day to day, and we would constantly be adjusting to new rules, research, discoveries and best-practices. 

The initial main question on every doctors' mind was "Is this as bad as SARS?", both in terms of mortality rate, and how it spread. Followed closely with: "Will I catch it at work?" and, more importantly, "Will I bring the disease home?" 

Yes, I am a doctor--  but I am also a husband to a pregnant wife, father to a young daughter, and son to elderly parents. 

I moved out of clinic work to working at the dormitories when the situation with the migrant workers escalated. First, covering a medical post at the gazetted dorms, seeing workers that were ill, giving medication, swabbing those that needed swabs. The practice of medicine in pandemic times is contrastingly unique, but, to a degree, also oddly... normal. 

Later, I took on a more planning role: strategizing, training, managing and deploying teams to factory dormitories to cope with the burgeoning needs on the ground. The considerations I make are at the same time clinical, as they are social and operational. 

In and of itself, these decisions seem, almost mundane. And yet, I am always acutely aware that my decisions have wide and long ranging impact on the colleagues I deploy and the patients we treat. 

People ask why I volunteered to help. Contrary to popular belief, not every medically trained professional is able to volunteer. There are many considerations like personal health problems, age, and health issues of the people they live with. 

I was not in a "at risk" age bracket, my wife was confident she was able to handle things at home, and I had the option to self isolate; so, it made the decision easier. Clearer. 

I moved out to live with another medical colleague. 

The thing is this, medicine as we have always known, still continues. It needs to. GPs are still seeing other patients: people still fall down, need their blood pressure controlled, get food poisoning, just like any other time. Just that for every patient that walks in, we remind ourselves to consider that the patient could have Covid.


Dr Kenneth Koh co-founded OneCare Medical in 2013 and serves as its Medical Director. A Kings College London alum, he also holds Graduate Diplomas in Family Medicine and Occupational Medicine. He is an accredited Family Physician with the College of Family Physicians, Singapore. 

He is also an avid photographer and is partial to street photography. These days, his favourite subject to photograph is his 2yo daughter, Emily.

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