Table 8

Snapshot of surging human resource capacity measures implemented in six Asian countries

IndonesiaSingaporeSouth KoreaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
Surge health work capacityTo augment the existing medical workforce, which was not optimal even before the pandemic, the government called for volunteers which included final year nursing students. However, health worker deaths affected overall workforce capacity, especially in 2021 when other more severe variants emerged. The military and police also deployed their health workers to aid in vaccination drives to accelerate inoculations.When large clusters emerged in the migrant worker dormitories in 2020, the healthcare capacity was augmented with personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces and non-medical volunteers from regional health systems, to help contain the spread in the dormitories. In September 2020, the crew from Singapore Airlines were also tasked to assist healthcare workers at nursing homes. The Singapore Healthcare Corps, a platform to recruit volunteers both medical and non-medical was also set up in the early stages of the pandemic.Integrated to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, a total of 300 medical students were gathered and performed diagnostic swabs. The military was also called on to perform decontamination operations.The government approved civil servant posts to aid in pandemic response by supplementing health professionals at medical facilities. Positions were also filled by contractual staff. Additionally, compensation was offered to the staff who contracted the virus. Thailand’s army of village health workers was also mobilised to for community engagement and medicine delivery services in the community.At the beginning of the pandemic, the Department of Health led emergency hiring of health personnel and the newly hired would be deployed to facilities based on the order of priority: (A) designated referral hospitals, (B) temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, (C) designated diagnostic facilities, (D) public hospitals and (4) private hospitals designated to handle cases. Local Government Units (LGUs) also hired supplemental health workers for quarantine facilities, surveillance and other front-line work in relation to the pandemic. In April 2020, a memorandum allowed fresh medical graduates to be deputised physicians at a capacity limited to non-COVID-19 patients, even without a certificate of registration.Since the first wave, retired medical staff were called on to augment the existing workforce. During the Delta surge, medical staff were reallocated from provinces with more controlled numbers to provinces with increased needs. The Central Youth Union was also called on to provide volunteers and teachers and students were also urged to register as volunteers in the hardest-hit areas. The military was also used to construct field hospitals, deliver basic necessities to households under isolation and aided in vaccination drives by facilitating logistic chains.
Surge personnel trained in FEPI/ Contact tracingSeveral thousand graduates of health vocational schools have been trained since the beginning of the pandemic with WHO learning modules on contact tracing.Since the first wave, contact tracers from the public service sectors were recruited and trained to augment existing manpower. Since mid-2021, there was a significant increase in the no of contact tracers trained due to large clusters. The additional contact tracing manpower came from various ministries and statutory boards with manpower further supplemented by external providers.Its workforce of Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers was expanded by quickly training staff at approximately 250 local public health centres, hiring 300 private epidemiologists and leveraging staff at 11 non-governmental organisations that train and support EIS officers. Civil servants were also mobilised to take on the contact tracing roles.Contact tracing was performed by over 1000 surveillance and rapid response teams with support from 1.1 million village health volunteers.The Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Unit trains LGUs to contact trace and to use recording and reporting systems. In September 2020, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) started offering free contact tracing training programmes and as numbers of infected cases spiked early 2021, TESDA urged LGUs to make avail its contact tracing programme.In February 2020, the graduates from Vietnam’s CDC-supported Field Epidemiology Training Programme Short Course were deployed to provinces where the first clusters were located. To augment existing contact tracing teams, personnel from the military, public security and civil servants were activated to help with identification of close contacts.
  • CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; FEPI, Field Epidemiology Training Programme.