Hospital bed crunch issue: MP Chia Shi-Lu elaborates on position

A Member of Parliament at the centre of an online furore due to his comments on the hospital bed crunch has elaborated on his position, and said the issue is due to several reasons.

On Wednesday, in a report on hospitals' unusual measures to tackle a bed shortage, The Straits Times had reported Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu as saying that the crunch might be due to the holiday season rather than a spike in illnesses.

But some netizens disagreed. They argued that the reasons went beyond this, as such shortages crop up at different times over the course of a year, and have been a problem for several years now.

The holiday season "exacerbated" bed shortages in public hospitals, Dr Chia, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, said on Thursday.

"When you have a double holiday like this, Christmas and the New Year around the same time with school holidays as well, you get problems on the demand side.

"During these holidays, some polyclinics and specialist clinics are closed, so you may have a few more people going into the emergency departments instead. Among these people, you may find a higher chance of someone needing to be admitted."

Changi General Hospital started housing patients waiting for beds in this large air-conditioned tent this week. The 1,200-bed Tan Tock Seng Hospital, meanwhile, has been forced to set up 49 beds along the corridors of its wards to cope with the demand.

Dr Chia, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, added that a variety of other reasons lay behind the bed crunch issue.

Some of these were administrative and social in nature, including more patients scheduling minor surgeries during the holiday period when work is slower.

There are also some families who are not ready to take their loved ones home from the hospital and want them to stay for one or two more days, he pointed out. This gives caregivers a short respite from looking after them.

Dr Chia added that hospitals try to prevent situations like these by encouraging patients to be discharged when possible.

"Most doctors find it very difficult to force patients to leave. Telling them, look, you should go home, because people are waiting for your beds...it's easier said than done," he added.

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