A freshly inked Memorandum of Understanding between Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group, Singapore’s Public Service Division (PSD) and Ministry of Health (MOH) formalises a trilateral commitment to collaborate on manpower planning in the event of future nationwide crises.
To kick this off, cabin crew volunteers from SIA and Scoot will undergo a five-day training programme with MOH’s healthcare volunteer corps to equip them with patient care skills. They will then volunteer with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Changi General Hospital from April 2024.
“It is a joy to be able to bring a smile to our passengers and patients alike,” says Vernetta Yeong, an SIA cabin crew member who has volunteered to be part of this programme.
A collaboration born from the Covid-19 pandemic
When Covid-19 swept across the world and global travel came to a standstill back in 2020, chills of uncertainty swept through the ranks of Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) cabin crew. Many flights were grounded, leaving crew members with much-reduced shifts and impacted livelihoods. At the same time, healthcare institutions were facing a sore need of manpower.
“It is a joy to be able to bring a smile to our passengers and patients alike”
In response to this situation, the SIA Group created an ambassador programme in partnership with MOH and PSD, redeploying 2,000 airline staff to the frontlines of needful public sector organisations and healthcare institutions. As part of this programme, more than 900 cabin crew took on the role of Care Ambassadors, helping with a variety of crucial duties such as care-giving and patient management.
SIA’s Care Ambassadors volunteering at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital during Covid-19. Photo credit: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Flight stewardess Vernetta Yeong describes her time as a Care Ambassador as one of the most pivotal moments in her life
Flight stewardess Yeong had been a part of this programme back then, volunteering at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. “One of my patients had trouble speaking due to an existing condition. He was quite reserved and took time to open up to the nurses.” she says. “I was overjoyed when he finally became more comfortable with having me around and mouthed a few words.”
She fondly recalls her time as a Care Ambassador as one of the most pivotal moments in her life. It’s these warm memories that led Yeong to decide to reprise her role in this kickoff of the newly formalised peacetime SIA Group Ambassador programme.
Service from the heart, whether in wards or in-flight
Chelsea Ng is another flight stewardess who volunteered with the Care Ambassador programme during the pandemic. For eight months, she assisted the nurses at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in basic care procedures.
“My biggest learning from this experience is to be more understanding towards every individual,” she recalls. “It has helped me to recognise and actively look out for the needs of the people I’m taking care of. With this, I hope to provide better support and a positive experience for my passengers.”
A partnership that prepares Singapore for future national emergencies
While life has largely resumed normalcy, the value that the Care Ambassador programme has brought to both healthcare professionals and patients is clear.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the critical importance of a coordinated crisis response across the public, private and people sectors,” says Teoh Zsin Woon, Permanent Secretary (Development), PSD. “This memorandum signifies a proactive step towards fortifying our collective response to future crises for a more resilient Singapore.”
“This memorandum signifies a proactive step towards fortifying our collective response to future crises for a more resilient Singapore”
“SIA is renowned for their customer service. I am sure our patients will benefit greatly from the Care Ambassadors who willingly volunteer their time with us,” adds Chan Yeng Kit, Permanent Secretary of Health. “I am also confident that the cross sharing of best practices between SIA and our healthcare institutions will uplift patient care towards more effective interpersonal communication and customer handling skills.”
Both Yeong and Ng look forward to continuing their roles as Care Ambassadors, as they believe it has taught them skills that they can bring back to the cabin.
“It is my honour to deliver the SIA service 35,000 feet in the air and on the ground,” says Ng. “We hope that our presence makes a difference to our patients and healthcare partners, and is a rewarding experience for all.”