Procuring for Safe and Swift Swabbing

When the Multi-Ministry Taskforce for COVID-19 announced plans in May 2020 to increase the number of swab tests done per day at migrant worker dormitories to curb rising transmissions, a team consisting of the Singapore Army's Medical Response Force and DSTA was quickly roped in to support the operations. For us, this meant not just getting engineers on board, but also procurement specialists to expedite the whole project.

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The Mobile Swab Station (MSS) is an integrated platform using the SAF’s Cross Country Ambulance mounted with a swab protection screen. Its mobility means that potential COVID-19 patients can be swabbed onsite without being transported to a separate medical facility. It also keeps the personnel involved safe, as swab operations are conducted in a safe, enclosed space with positive air pressure.

To ensure that the MSS can be deployed quickly to support COVID-19 testing operations, our engineers made use of computer-aided design modelling for its design and development. The team also repurposed filtration systems used in other SAF vehicles innovatively, and integrated it with the MSS to create positive air pressure for enhanced protection of medical personnel. Through these efforts, the team ensured that the MSS was seamlessly integrated and safe for operations.

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Working alongside the engineers was a team of procurement specialists, who assessed requirements and acquired all equipment for the MSS while racing against time and soaring demands for swab testing. The team brainstormed for ways to streamline and formulate contractual terms that would not just safeguard the SAF’s interest, but also expedite the procurement process as much as feasibly possible. The team made all efforts to ensure that price evaluations were conducted fairly to meet the nation’s needs, while upholding the fundamental principles of fairness, openness, competitiveness and getting value for money.

“Despite the hectic schedule, we managed to reduce the procurement lead time from months to just days,” said Deputy Director (Procurement) Wu Zhihuai. “It has been a meaningful experience for all of us.”