Air-conditioning has found its way to subsidised wards in at least one public hospital.
Six out of the 24 B2 and C class wards at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) have had "spot cooling" installed to keep temperatures at a steady 28 deg C, day and night.
This is part of the hospital's upgrading to make wards safer and more comfortable, especially for older patients.
The renovated B2 wards also have non-slip flooring, a toilet and shower within each five-bed unit instead of large communal facilities for the entire ward, cushioned floors to soften falls, and decentralised nursing stations.
Ms Wong Mui Peng, TTSH's deputy director of nursing, said having one nurse station per room of five or six beds - instead of all them working from one central location - has resulted in nurses walking 3.6km less each shift. The 1.5 hours each nurse saves are better spent caring for patients.
The renovated C class has six beds to a room and is also air-conditioned, although patients still share communal toilets and showers.
Public hospitals typically have B2 and C class wards which lack some of the comforts of B1 and A class wards. Patients in B2 and C class wards usually have to walk to communal toilets, do without air-conditioning, and share their room with a dozen or more people.
This is to discourage people from choosing the highly subsidised B2 and C class wards if they can afford better. Subsidy is as high as 80 per cent in C class, compared to 20 per cent in B1 and none in A class.
But following the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003 which spread within hospitals, having fewer people sharing facilities made medical sense.
So the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in Yishun, which opened in 2010, has adjoining toilet and shower facilities in rooms with only five patients in subsidised wards, although there is no air-conditioning.
A spokesman for KTPH said the hospital was built to take advantage of natural breeze with full height windows, but admitted that temperatures can go as high as 33 deg C in hot months.
Other public hospitals also said they were unlikely to introduce air-conditioning in subsidised wards.
The National University Hospital air-conditions the main corridors, but not the subsidised wards. Its spokesman said a roof garden above its main building helps to keep down the temperature in the wards below.
At TTSH, temperatures in subsidised wards could go as high as 35 deg C on hot days, despite a fan for each patient, said director of nursing Yong Keng Kwang.
"Excessive perspiration could lead to more complications such as unwanted infections and irritations for patients," he added.
TTSH's new system dispenses cool air which is then circulated through the ward cubicles by a central fan.
The hospital has been getting positive feedback from its patients, and intends to install similar air-conditioning units in all its subsidised wards. Two wards are under renovation, and the rest will be upgraded in stages.
Nurse manager Adelaida Sioson believes patients are "easier to look after" in the cooler wards. Fewer have bed sores and rashes caused by perspiration. They are also less irritable, she said.
Retired cabby S. H. Ng, 68, gave the thumbs up, and not just to the cooler wards. He also believes the doctors and nurses are friendlier and more passionate than when he was hospitalised at TTSH three years ago.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 8, 2013
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