To collect a free oximeter given out by Temasek Foundation, Ms Farlinzah Mahmood simply took a six-minute walk from her Sengkang home to the nearest supermarket.

“It was easy and convenient. I just showed the leaflet to one of the (Sheng Siong) staff in-charge and the oximeter was swiftly issued to me,” said the 48-year-old assistant operations manager who is married with two grown-up children.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic still on, the oximeter is definitely useful as we can all regularly check our blood oxygen levels to ensure it’s within the healthy range,” she continued. “Better to be safe than sorry.”

Farlinzah’s family is but one of the 900,000 Singapore households to date who have collected their free oximeter since the Foundation’s latest COVID-19 care item distribution exercise was launched on 5 July this year.

Providing one free oximeter for every Singapore household is part of Temasek Foundation’s Stay Prepared initiative to prepare the community for emergencies.

With the emergence of new and more infectious COVID-19 variants, the aim is to encourage everyone to monitor the oxygen levels in their blood to detect early signs of a deterioration in health.

“One of the invisible symptoms of COVID-19 is silent pneumonia. We may have COVID-19 without showing any symptoms. Even when we feel well, our blood oxygen levels can become dangerously low and this can damage vital organs,” said Temasek Foundation Cares Chief Executive Ms Woon Saet Nyoon.

“By using an oximeter regularly, we’ll know our normal oxygen levels and can seek medical attention when the levels become dangerously low.”

Partnering to Keep Singapore Safe

It takes a village, as the saying goes, to make an extensive distribution effectively happen. 

To reach out to 1.37 million households in Singapore, the Foundation enlisted the help of corporate partners that range from long-time partner SP Group, to first-time collaborators such as NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong, Giant and Cold Storage.

The neighbourhood supermarket chains — along with pharmacy chains Watsons, Unity and Guardian — provided a distribution network of some 300 outlets across the island as oximeter collection points.

An NTUC FairPrice outlet provides a convenient collection point for supermarket goers and residents in the neighbourhood.

“We decided to work with these supermarket and pharmacy chains because of their accessibility to the general population across Singapore,” shared Ms Woon.

“For supermarkets, most people do grocery shopping at these chains and so they can pick up the oximeter on the way. And with the campaign being one month long, those who do grocery shopping on a particular day of the week will not miss out.”

Extensive Supermarket Outreach

Contributing 63 outlets in the heartlands was Sheng Siong, the third largest supermarket chain in Singapore.

Equipped with the resources to help and certain that business operations would not be affected much, Mr Nigel Lin JunLin, Executive Assistant to CEO at Sheng Siong Group, said his company “feels honoured to participate in the nationwide distribution”, adding that their staff were happy to be part of the community to help.

A Sheng Siong staff handing a free oximeter to a customer with a redemption leaflet.

Given an inventory of 200,000 oximeters, the main challenge for Sheng Siong was to ensure that all their outlets had adequate supply to meet demand. To tackle this, an inventory management system was set up to closely monitor all outlets' inventory and daily logistics.

Said Mr Lin: “We want everyone who comes down to us with the brochure can redeem (an oximeter); we do not want to disappoint (anyone).”

Pharmacy Perks

Meanwhile, people who collected their oximeters at pharmacies discovered an added perk as they were able to seek advice from the in-house pharmacists on how to use an oximeter correctly.

Pharmacists often help customers, especially seniors, understand how and when to use the oximeter.

Principal Clinical Pharmacist Ms Chung Wing Lam, who is stationed at Watsons Takashimaya Shopping Centre, recalled an encounter she had with a woman in her 50s.

“She was panting when she arrived at the store as she had walked all the way from the MRT station and was unfamiliar with the mall. As she’s neither tech savvy nor familiar with English, she asked if we could help show her how to use the oximeter. 

“We took time to show her how it works. As she lives alone, the lady appreciates having an oximeter at hand to be able to check her health status,” she shared.

Before any collection can be made however, the public needs to be first informed of the distribution. That’s where Singapore Post comes in...

Delivering the Stay Prepared Leaflets

For the oximeter campaign, Singapore Post delivered approximately 1.5 million Stay Prepared leaflets with a redemption tab to all residential units in Singapore.

To postwoman Ms Cindy Neo Gek Yian, who has worked in SingPost for 24 years, the leaflets were for a national cause, and “as postmen, it is our duty to continue delivering mail to Singaporeans even in times of crisis, and it is our honor and privilege to be able to lend a hand in such a worthy cause.”

The biggest challenge for Ms Neo and her more than 1000 co-workers was that “the initiative was executed at a very fast pace, so we had to react accordingly as well.” 

Still, she shared that “all of us postmen were willing to take on this extra load as it is for the good of the nation.”

About 1.5 million oximeter collection leaflets with redemption tabs were delivered by Singapore Post to all residential units in Singapore.

Attending to Public Queries

SP Group has assisted in all of the Foundation’s distributions – four StayMasked mask distribution campaigns, two #BYOBclean hand sanitiser distribution exercises, as well as the current oximeter distribution. 

Support by the utilities provider ranges from having their call centre serve as the public hotline for the campaigns, to setting up the backend systems to enable the SP utility bills to be used for the second #BYOBclean collection. For the oximeter hotline, 30 call centre staff are involved.

“Temasek Foundation and SP Group share a common mission to improve the quality of lives for the people in Singapore,” said SP Assistant Director Mr Raymond Lim. 

“During unprecedented times like the ongoing pandemic, it is even more important for us to do what we can to support the community.”

Operating a call centre while having to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and safe management measures was challenging, but thanks to technology, SP managed to conduct training and allowed their agents to man the hotline from home.

Since the campaign started, daily call volume ranges from several hundreds to a few thousands per day. On average, an agent handles about 60 to 100 calls a day.

“The oximeter distribution generated a fair amount of interest as it is not a ubiquitous product,” said Mr Lim. “In general, members of the public were appreciative of the efforts and generosity by Temasek Foundation.”

Hotline agent Ms Christabelle Tan concurred. “The majority of callers were generally polite, but we do have a handful of difficult callers to manage.”

Citing a unique example, the SP Customer Care Officer tells of a caller who frantically asked if he needed to call an ambulance immediately as “his blood pressure was so low”. It took a fellow agent some time to calm him down and advise that the oximeter was used to measure blood oxygen level and not blood pressure.

SP hotline agent Christabelle Tan underwent product training and is equipped to handle difficult calls. 

Manning the hotline, Ms Tan not only has to learn how an oximeter works, she also has to work with other partners involved in the initiative to be able to address customers’ enquiries adequately. 

The 29-year-old however takes it all in her stride as it allows her “to participate in a nationwide exercise and play a small part in contributing back to society.”

A Collective Effort to Ensure Singapore Stay Safe

Volunteers also formed an integral part of every Temasek Foundation distribution exercise, with regulars often staff from parent company Temasek.

Ms Wendy Yeo, Director of Organisation & People at Temasek, volunteered at Temasek Shophouse where she helped with the exchange of faulty devices. She even roped in her 20-year-old daughter to assist as well.

“To me, when the need is presented at your doorstep, there is no excuse and no hesitation to contribute in whatever way I can,” she said. 

Being in HR, engaging with people is right up Ms Yeo’s alley. 

“I’ve been fortunate that most members of the public I’ve encountered are appreciative of what Temasek Foundation has done for them. Some may have been frustrated with the process and to me, the key is to listen and understand.”

The ongoing fight against COVID-19 is thus a collective effort and the Foundation will continue to work with various corporate partners to help keep Singapore safe.

“The public can look forward to upcoming distributions for medical-grade surgical masks and povidone-iodine mouth gargle that will enable the community to self-help and care for the community at large,” said Ms Woon.

Oximeter: Where to Collect
Each household can collect one free oximeter at more than 300 collection points. 

Just bring the Stay Prepared leaflet (complete with redemption tab) that was mailed to each household to redeem. You can check for the nearest collection points and their operating hours at www.stayprepared.sg/oximeter.

Collection ends Thursday, 5 August 2021.

Note: Faulty devices can be exchanged at the Temasek Shophouse from now till 31 August 2021.

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