SINGAPORE - Hospitals here must be designed with flexibility in mind so they can adapt to changing healthcare needs in future, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Nov 13).
Speaking to reporters during a tour of Outram Community Hospital, where he had announced a new integrated hospital to be opened in Bedok North, Mr Gan said changing demographics and disease patterns will require a changing model of care.
It is important that hospitals are able to be flexible and adjust to these new care models where necessary, he added.
Asked if the integrated model - co-locating an acute hospital and a community hospital which work closely together - reflects how all hospitals here will look in the future, Mr Gan said such a model is very important.
"We see many of the patients when they are discharged, especially the older patients, require an extended period of rehabilitation," he noted.
"Instead of doing it within the hospital, which is very, very costly - and we also need to focus acute hospitals' capacities on those with acute needs - this is better dealt with in a community hospital."
He emphasised that community hospitals play a key role in helping patients recover, and that the integrated model allows patients to be transferred between both types of hospitals more smoothly.
There are several other institutions across the island that have general and community hospitals co-located next to each other.
These include Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Ren Ci Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital, and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Outram Community Hospital.
However, Mr Gan added: "The model is evolving all the time because our healthcare needs are also evolving, all the time."
Noting that the new integrated hospital will take about 10 years from its design to be completed, and will likely last for another 40 years or so afterwards, he said: "By the time you finish, it cannot be based on the needs that you have today."
Many new hospitals are already built with this flexibility in mind, he added.
For instance, during the pandemic, Outram Community Hospital handed over some of its wards to SGH to be run as acute wards, allowing SGH to free up capacity to care for Covid-19 patients.
"That has been the key consideration. You need that flexibility to allow us to adapt to the changes in healthcare needs going forward," Mr Gan said.