Why It Matters

A boost for nursing homes

Singapore's first government-run nursing home in Pearl's Hill Road was officially opened last Wednesday.

This move comes months after the National Trades Union Congress launched its first nursing home in Jurong West in May.

The fact that these two resource-rich heavyweights have entered the nursing-home segment this year is telling.

Apart from reflecting the growing needs and market potential of a rapidly ageing population, there is also, perhaps, a recognition that more needs to be done to raise the standards of nursing homes here.

The 130-bed Pearl's Hill Care Home in Chinatown is operated by Vanguard Healthcare, which was set up by the Ministry of Health (MOH) last year to run its own nursing homes.

It seems unusual for a ministry to start its own private company so that it can operate things on the ground. MOH has said that this will enable it to understand better the issues faced by operators and come up with solutions and innovations which can be adopted by others.

The intention is good but there are concerns, too. For example, some may wonder why MOH the regulator is also now a player in the segment it oversees. This is an issue that the ministry will obviously take heed of.

Maybe the best way for MOH to banish any doubts about this unique arrangement is to deliver on its promise of "pushing boundaries" in tapping innovation to raise the quality of care.

Presently, only a third of the country's current nursing-home capacity is provided by private players. The rest of the homes are run by voluntary welfare organisations which may not have the capital or incentive to compete with one another and innovate.

With the growing ranks of seniors here, the latest move by MOH is timely. It should push our nursing homes to up their game in order for them to offer a range of services and room types, and yet remain financially viable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'A boost for nursing homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe