Introduction: The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak has been unique in recent history in its rapidity of transmission, its concentration in healthcare settings, and the large number of healthcare workers who have been infected. This study aims to examine the psychological impact of SARS on general practitioners (GPs) and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners in Singapore.
Materials and methods: Two months after the SARS outbreak, all the GPs and TCM practitioners in Singapore were mailed a set of self-reported questionnaires, which included the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), the Impact of Event Scale-R (IES-R), and a questionnaire to measure the perception of stigma.
Results: A total of 721 (29%) GPs and 329 (22%) TCM practitioners responded to the survey. Significantly more GPs had worked in SARS affected facilities and had been directly involved in the care of patients with SARS than the TCM practitioners (P <0.001). Those GPs who were directly involved in the care of patients with SARS were significantly more likely to be GHQ case as compared to those not involved in the care of patients with SARS (P = 0.02; OR = 2.9; 95% CI, 1.3-6.3). The mean score of the GHQ somatic, anxiety and social dysfunction subscales were significantly higher in GPs as compared to TCM Practitioners (P <0.001). The GHQ total score as well as the subscales was significantly correlated with the IES-R and stigma subscales (P <0.05).
Conclusion: The fear, uncertainty and stigma caused by SARS are associated with psychological distress among some of the primary healthcare providers in Singapore.