SINGAPORE - Singapore's healthcare delivery framework is unique, with the Government providing primary and in-patient care while community care partners provide step down care.
The Government also helps these partners build, fund and operate healthcare and step down care facilities so they can bring services closer to the community.
This collaborative system keeps healthcare costs affordable, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (May 11).
He was speaking at the official opening of Ren Ci Hospital's new nursing home at Teck Ghee, called Ren Ci @ Ang Mo Kio.
The facility is a purpose-built nursing home with 472 beds, designed to provide greater privacy and allow the residents more autonomy and dignity in their daily living.
The opening also marks the 25th anniversary of Ren Ci Hospital.
PM Lee said: "Our community care partners like Ren Ci are very important in providing step down care. They enable Singaporeans to be cared for in familiar surroundings near their home and in the company of people they know and love.
"This makes care services more accessible, gives comfort to patients and caregivers who have more psychological and community support and who can thereby avoid the overuse of expensive facilities or hospitalisation in tertiary hospitals."
He added that the collaborative system is especially important as more Singaporeans age and will need such step down care services.
"We are happy with this model, which is why over the last decade, we have increased our total spending in primary care and intermediate or long term care sectors by nearly four times," he said.
PM Lee also witnessed an exchange between the Ren Ci Learning Academy and the Centre for Allied Health and Pharmacy Excellence at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The academy aims to boost the community's capabilities to better care for the elderly.
Ren Ci's new facility is designed to provide a cluster-living concept for residents instead of isolated rooms. The residents are grouped into households with a common corridor called the "eight foot way", a play on the "five foot way" that was a continuous corridor built in front of shophouses. There are also spaces that allow residents to gather and socialise.
Each level features a theme that evokes nostalgia. For example, one level has artificial bird cages and recorded bird song.
Mr Joe Hau, chief executive of Ren Ci Hospital, said: "The cluster-living concept and the 'eight-foot way' allow activities of daily living to occur within a smaller- scale environment, reminiscent of a large family home, and yet promotes interaction among seniors."
The home is also trying out a new shower system where patients in wheelchairs can shower on their own, removing the need for extensive manual bathing by staff.
The system has a dome-shaped chamber which envelopes the person and wheelchair and offers an automated shower while giving them privacy and reducing the risk of falls.
Besides such features, the facility offers a Short Stay Unit that provides care of up to six months for residents to recuperate before they return home. It includes post-care services such as medical escort and meals-on-wheels.
"The other aspect is to increase the residents' sense of independence, self-worth and meaning in life through self-discovery and reconnection," Ren Ci said in a press statement.
Resident Kevin Tan, 52, who used to be a makeup artist, is staying at the Short Stay Unit. He has limited mobility because of a spinal injury after a fall.
He said: "It provides me with a safe environment to practise independent living. Because of this empowerment, I get to visit the nearby public library regularly to satisfy my appetite for reading on my own. Having been here for almost six months, the medical social worker here has helped me in many ways, including making housing arrangement in preparation of my return to the community. I am grateful for their support."
Mr Tan is looking forward to moving into his new home, a one-room rental flat.