Singapore's newest hospital, the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), has started taking more ambulance cases from Thursday, which should relieve some of the load on other public hospitals, which are facing heavy demand.
The hospital, which opened on June 30, did not take any ambulance cases initially as it had wanted to ramp up its services gradually.
Dr Quek Lit Sin, head of its emergency department, said that since the end of July, it has been taking in ambulance patients who required immediate medical attention.
Now, it will take in all patients except for those suffering from heart attacks, stroke or have been badly injured in an accident.
Such patients will continue to be taken to the National University Hospital (NUH), under an arrangement between the two hospitals.
A statement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) said this will "better manage the load of Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulance cases at hospitals such as NUH and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).
With public hospitals experiencing a severe crunch on beds this year, the opening of the 700-bed NTFGH was greeted with relief.
In its initial phase, the new hospital in Jurong operates 365 of its 700 beds and 80 of its 120 outpatient clinic consultation rooms.
But more than a month after it opened, nearby hospitals are still facing a flood of patients, latest MOH figures show.
NUH has been coping with an average occupancy of over 90 per cent while the KTPH has been struggling with occupancy rates of over 95 per cent.
These figures, which are for the week of Aug 16, showed that on the worst day that week, half the patients had to wait more than 15.6 hours to be admitted to a ward at KTPH. This is from the time the doctor decides the patient needs to be warded, and not from the time the patient is first admitted to the emergency department.
Most patients at public hospital emergency departments are taken there by ambulance. There are more than 3,000 SCDF ambulance cases a week, distributed among all public hospitals, 7 per cent higher than last year.