Ensuring safe care for seniors in nursing homes

We thank Ms Michelle Low Mei Lin for her views on enforcement of nursing home standards ("Reduce impact of new rules on nursing-home residents"; Wednesday).

We share the same objective of providing good care for our seniors.

Nursing-home residents are often frail. It is important for us to ensure that they are cared for safely.

We have been and will continue to work with all providers to achieve care standards.

The Enhanced Nursing Home Standards (ENHS) were developed by a workgroup comprising nursing-home operators and clinicians who are familiar with nursing-home services.

Given that nursing homes differ in size and model, the standards have been phrased in terms of care outcomes where possible.

This gives operators more flexibility to determine how to achieve these outcomes.

The standards were finalised in January 2014 after several rounds of industry consultations, which included both big and small homes.

To enable homes to work towards the standards, these were introduced as part of licensing requirements in April last year, and enforced with effect from last month after a one-year grace period.

Since 2014, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) has introduced supporting measures which all homes can tap. These include a guidebook to better explain the standards, and partnering the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore to provide pharmacist services for homes.

AIC's Learning Institute has also conducted more than 500 runs of courses related to ENHS domains.

We will also continue to review funding for nursing homes caring for subsidised patients, to support them in achieving the standards and ensure that care remains affordable.

Even while we enforce standards, our approach is to first work with homes on an individual basis to discuss the areas of care which they need to improve on and to seek joint solutions.

We exercise flexibility, taking into consideration the context of each home, while ensuring that patient safety is not compromised. This can include strengthening care processes, such as how medication is managed, to ensure safe care.

We have and are continuing to meet homes to discuss in depth the specific issues they face, and we seek their cooperation and understanding to work with us to improve care.

To meet the needs of our ageing population, we are ramping up nursing-home capacity. We have more than 12,000 beds today and are on track to reach 17,000 beds by 2020.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)

Director

Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

Andy Seet

Director

Corporate and Marketing Communications

Agency for Integrated Care

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Ensuring safe care for seniors in nursing homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe