WhyItMatters

The benefits of community hospitals

The Yishun Community Hospital.
The Yishun Community Hospital.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Yishun Community Hospital opened this week, becoming the third such facility to be opened over the past 13 months.

The new trio, when fully operational, will give Singapore more than 1,100 community hospital beds. This will bring the total number of such beds to more than twice the number a year ago.

Having more such beds will help to keep a lid on healthcare costs. As a rule of thumb, the cost of building and running a community hospital is half that of a general hospital.

Their patients are not critically ill, and therefore require fewer doctors and nurses to look after them.

Patients recovering from a stroke or a fracture, for example, may require several weeks of rehabilitation before returning home.

Doing so at a community hospital makes much more sense for two reasons.

First, it is cheaper to put these patients in a place where they get the appropriate care rather than the excessive care they would get in a general hospital.

Newer community hospitals are physically linked to general hospitals, so help is at hand should there be a medical emergency.

Second, public hospitals here have been facing a severe bed crunch over the past few years.

Despite the opening of the 700-bed Ng Teng Fong General Hospital earlier this year, public hospitals are still experiencing occupancy rates of more than 80 per cent, with Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital struggling to find free beds on some days.

Moving long-stay patients to a community hospital will free up much-needed space.

Hospitals will no longer need to put off non-emergency surgery because of a shortage of beds, resulting in shorter waiting times for patients.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'New hospitals' welcome beds'. Print Edition | Subscribe