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Nursing homes will be near your homes

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 31, 2013

INTEGRATED, convenient, adaptable and cost-effective to build.

These are the guiding principles for the impressive number of new hospitals, nursing homes and polyclinics which will be set up in Singapore, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

Giving the opening address at this year's Healthcare Infrastructure Technology and Engineering Conference (Hi.Tec) at the Marina Mandarin hotel, he said: "Singapore's population is getting older, our disease patterns are shifting and demand for health-care services is set to increase."

Which is why two more general hospitals, four community hospitals and six polyclinics will open by 2020.

Another four general hospitals will be built between 2020 and 2030, doubling the number of public general hospitals.

Four new nursing homes have already opened this year, and more are being built.

Yesterday, Mr Gan spelt out how he wants them to serve patients.

He said: "Facilities should be integrated with each other and with services in the community, so that patients can enjoy a more seamless care experience."

The four new community hospitals - to serve patients who need longer-term rehabilitation - will each be located next to a general hospital. For instance, Yishun Community Hospital will be beside Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, while Outram Community Hospital will be built next to Singapore General Hospital.

This will allow older patients who need more time getting well, but not the services of a general hospital, to be easily transferred.

The new hospitals, such as Sengkang General Hospital, will all be located in dense residential areas. And in spite of recent objections by some to having health-care facilities near their homes, Mr Gan said: "We are building new nursing homes within or close to residential areas."

This is to "provide more convenience to (the) patient's family and friends, as well as provide more opportunities for the surrounding community to support the care of the elderly and frail", he explained.

On his recent trip to Japan, Mr Gan saw how nursing homes also provide day services, so seniors in the area can use these facilities. That, he said, is "a key reason why we have deliberately located our new nursing homes and senior care centres within neighbourhoods across the island".

On the actual planning and construction, he said the new buildings need to be "adaptable in the long term to meet changing health-care requirements".

Some of this is already being done, for instance, with "swing beds" which can easily switch from community to general hospital use should the need arise.

Mr Gan also stressed the need for "faster, smarter and more cost-effective" ways to build health-care facilities. He challenged architects and contractors to design buildings that are "relatively easy and cost-efficient to maintain and upkeep".

Hi.Tec keynote speaker Peter Bardwell, president of the American College of Healthcare Architects, made a similar point.

He explained that spending just 5 per cent more in construction costs for new buildings - to make them more adaptable to future changes - will save a lot in renovation costs down the road.

salma@sph.com.sg

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This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 31, 2013

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