SINGAPORE - A new hospital, new polyclinics and more innovative models of treating patients are in the works, to ensure that the nation's ageing and growing population has good medical care.
The new general hospital, with an adjoining community hospital, will be built in the east by 2030, to ease the load on Changi General Hospital (CGH). Its location has not been announced yet.
It will be Singapore's 12th public general hospital. There are now 10 such hospitals, with one in Woodlands expected to open in 2022.
SingHealth will run the new hospital in the east, which will provide the range of services all general hospitals provide, and take into account views from the community on what they want from it.
Alexandra Hospital will be redeveloped with greater access and land area as well as built-up space to trial new models of care. The first phase of redevelopment is expected to be completed by 2030.
Announcing these investments to healthcare infrastructure during the debate on his ministry's budget for the year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said: "The healthcare demand has grown substantially as a result of population growth and ageing."
The national healthcare expenditure has gone up from $13 billion in 2012 to $22 billion in 2017. This is an 11 per cent increase every year.
Some of the higher cost comes from an ageing population, but Mr Gan told Parliament on Thursday (March 5) that five percentage points of the increase were due to higher use of facilities and services.
"This is partly the result of making care more accessible and affordable to all, and partly due to earlier diagnosis and closer monitoring and follow-ups for medical conditions."
The higher cost of drugs and medical devices accounted for another two percentage points of the increased cost.
"The range of treatment options has also expanded as the frontiers of medicine advance, increasing utilisation, but at the same time improving life spans and the quality of life," he said.
He said that the Government would continue to invest in healthcare facilities.
The proposed expansion of the polyclinic network, with 12 more to be added, is on target to provide a total of 32 by 2030.
Three new polyclinics will open this year in Bukit Panjang, Eunos and Kallang, with one in Sembawang opening next year.
Another six will open by 2026. These are in Khatib, Tampines North, Serangoon, Kaki Bukit, Tengah and Yew Tee.
Mr Gan said the last two, to be opened by 2030, will be in Bishan and Bidadari.
To a question by Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, on the use of technology in healthcare, the minister said Singapore continues to explore how technology and telemedicine can improve care.
He said: "To date, 25 public healthcare institutions and 39 community care partners have started video consultation pilot services."
Artificial intelligence and robotics will also be used.
One example, he said, is a system called Selena+ to check for diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration - all common problems among older people.
Selena+ will grade retinal images and flag only those that are abnormal. These will then be accessed by human graders.
A machine doing the first cut means more time for humans to analyse more complex cases. Use of Selena+ may go further, said Mr Gan.
"A predictive risk assessment model for cardiovascular disease will be developed so doctors can accurately identify high-risk patients and conduct more timely interventions to save lives and achieve better outcomes."