Community hospitals gear up for haze season

Li Zheng Yi Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: At least two community hospitals in Singapore are gearing up for the hot and hazy weather ahead, and top on their minds is their patients' health and comfort.

Kwong Wai Shiu hospital installed a customised ventilation system late last year. Since the hot weather season started, the system has lowered temperatures in this ward.

Another community hospital, Bright Vision, has started using half of the 60 portable air-conditioners it bought last year.

Hardware aside, hospital directors say if severe haze conditions hit, they may have to tweak patients' treatment too. Many of their patients require occupational and physiotherapy, which can be demanding for the elderly.

"If the air quality drops, we will have to scale back the intensity of the treatment,” said Professor Lee Kheng Hock, Medical Director of Bright Vision Hospital. “Unfortunately, this would mean that we have to prolong their stay in hospital so they can have more time to recuperate and reach the level of function that we aim for. This, in turn, would lead to a delay in discharge which would be very unfortunate because we are trying our best to bring them back safely to their home as soon as possible."

- CNA/xy

In case of haze: CapitaLand unveils measures to protect staff and tenants
Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: CapitaLand on Thursday (June 26) unveiled a number of haze-related measures for its employees and other stakeholders, including ensuring workplace conditions comply with guidelines issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In a statement, Mr Tan Seng Chai, Group Chief Corporate Officer at CapitaLand, said the health and safety of its stakeholders is of "utmost importance". As such, he said main contractors and sub-contractors at all CapitaLand project sites are required to comply with guidelines issued by MOM and NEA to protect employees from the effects of haze.

Indonesia's disaster agency on Wednesday warned that haze could return to Singapore and Malaysia after a jump in forest fires in the Riau province on western Sumatra. A total of 366 hotspots were detected in the province, up from 97 on Tuesday, the agency said.

Experts had earlier said the haze expected to hit Singapore during the dry season between June and October could be prolonged if a strong El Nino effect sets in to compound the effects of illegal land clearing in Indonesia.


The real estate group will conduct risk assessment to determine whether outdoor lifting operations involving tower and mobile cranes should cease due to the foreseeable risk of poor visibility, Mr Tan said.

The company is already monitoring PSI readings at its office buildings, shopping malls, serviced residences and work sites, but procedures are in place for staff at its properties to update tenants, shoppers and guests on the readings and advise them on precautionary measures, he added.

In addition, external features will be closed and outdoor events postponed should the PSI reading cross 150, Mr Tan said.

Internally, the organisation has prepared a sufficient supply of masks to be available to more than 2,000 Singapore-based CapitaLand staff in the event of haze. Managers are also empowered to assess and allow staff to work from home should there be a need to, he said.

Mr Tan said the Group has changed its paper supply for its Singapore office to Forest Stewardship Council-certified mixed paper, to ensure the paper is not sourced from illegal logging or other destructive forestry practices.

- CNA/kk

Jump in sales of N95 masks ahead of haze season
Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Jun 14;

The haze may not have descended on Singapore yet, but some people are not taking chances.

Two major pharmacy chains have seen a jump in sales of N95 masks in the last one or two months, though checks by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) show that these are still "readily available".

At Unity pharmacies, sales of masks have gone up by about 20 per cent this month and in May, compared with April. Last year, the company sold one million N95 face masks.

Mr Andy Wan, director of wholesale and housebrand at NTUC Unity Healthcare, said the company expects "a significant increase" in face mask sales when the haze returns and is ready to "quickly replenish the masks at our 54 outlets whenever stocks run low".

"We are also stocking up on other haze-related items such as eye drops, inhalers and medication to relieve throat irritation," he added.

Watsons has also seen "a surge in demand after recent haze reports in the news", said Mr Benedict Leong, marketing director of Watsons Singapore. It has sold 50 per cent more N95 masks for this month and May, over April.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the haze, Case checked with 57 authorised retailers of N95 masks from June 13 to 15 and found them "readily available", it said in a press statement yesterday.

It carried out the price and availability checks, given that the price of these masks rose to $8 each last year.

N95 masks of good quality are those certified by a national work health body in the US to be at least 95 per cent effective in filtering fine particles.

Case's checks found that a N95 mask costs between $1.38 and $3.90, depending on the model and manufacturer. It warned consumers against buying masks from unreliable sources and noted that N95 masks in Singapore are not designed to fit children.

Besides checking on face masks, Case also tested 10 randomly selected brands of air purifiers.

In haze conditions, all of them efficiently removed respirable suspended particles (RSP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

The former refers to atmospheric particles with diameters of 10 micrometres or less, while the latter refers to organic chemicals that have a high vapour pressure at ordinary room temperature. High levels of them are harmful.

On average, the 10 purifiers had an elimination rate of 98.37 per cent for RSP and 99.78 per cent for VOC.

At least one major store has seen brisk air purifier sales. Courts has seen demand for these go up by three times on average this year over last year, said Mr Tim Luce, country chief executive of Courts Singapore.

Finance manager Andrew Tan, 62, has already bought an air purifier and N95 face masks for his family. "I was caught by surprise last year when I went to several stores and N95 masks were out of stock at all of them. This time around... I am better prepared."