New infectious disease centre at TTSH aims to improve country's response to outbreaks

Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (fourth and fifth from left) at the groundbreaking ceremony of Tan Tock Seng Hospital's new National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Centre for Healthcare Innovation on Nov
Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong (fourth and fifth from left) at the groundbreaking ceremony of Tan Tock Seng Hospital's new National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Centre for Healthcare Innovation on Nov 3, 2014. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A new infectious disease centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) that aims to improve Singapore's response to oubreaks, will have a screening centre and ward cubicles that can be turned into isolation rooms.

Called the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), it can also be locked down during large outbreaks to manage highly infectious diseases safely.

Details of this centre and a new training hub for medical professionals were unveiled on Monday, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the two buildings. Plans for these facilities, part of a master plan to have a "health city" in Novena and to be opened in stages from 2018, were first announced last year.

The NCID will be a 14-storey centre with 330 beds in 17 inpatient wards. It will have dedicated lifts for visitors, patients and staff to reduce the risk of cross-infection.

During the Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003, TTSH had to use a makeshift tent to accommodate the large number of patients being screened, and this increased the risk of cross infection.

To better deal with large outbreaks, the NCID will have a screening centre which can hold 520 patients, and a specialist outpatient clinic which can be converted such that 130 more patients can be screened.

While the NCID will be a self-contained centre, to confine treatment of infected patients to a single place, it is also connected to the main TTSH building and will be able to use resources from the general hospital for more coordinated operations.

Details of TTSH's new Centre for Healthcare Innovation were also unveiled on Monday. Features of the nine-storey building include simulation labs and multimedia walls so people can learn about the latest digital healthcare systems and technologies.

TTSH chief executive Phillip Choo said: "The groundbreaking today is not merely about new buildings and increasing capacity... It is about being future ready and creating a new workforce that is connected and aligned to population needs."