Singapore's biggest new hospital with 1,000 beds will open on Saturday.
When it is fully open, Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) will significantly bump up the total number of public-sector acute beds from just over 8,600 now.
The next public general hospital to open will be in Woodlands, in 2022. The Ministry of Health (MOH) will then take a pause to plan for future healthcare needs, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.
SKH will start with 260 beds and increase to 500 in six months. The hospital is within walking distance of the Sengkang MRT station and linked directly to the LRT station.
The 400-bed Sengkang Community Hospital attached to SKH will open on Aug 28, as it takes a while for patients from the general hospital to need rehabilitation at a community hospital.
Announcing the dates at the SKH Campus Community Health Fair, Mr Gan said that as Singapore's population ages, there will be increased demand for healthcare services.
PAUSING TO THINK OF FUTURE NEEDS
Beyond Woodlands, we will take a bit of time to plan for future needs. Healthcare needs will expand, given the ageing population, but the care model may change. It is important to take a bit of time to plan for... future needs.
HEALTH MINISTER GAN KIM YONG, on MOH taking a pause to plan for future healthcare needs after the next public general hospital opens in Woodlands, in 2022.
The Government has been building more facilities across various sectors to meet this growing demand, he said. Since 2011, it has added 1,700 acute hospital beds and 1,200 community hospital beds. The hospitals in Sengkang will add another 1,400 beds to this.
They are part of the new generation of public general hospitals, starting with the 660-bed Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in Yishun which opened in 2010, and the 700-bed Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in Jurong East in 2015.
The Woodlands general hospital will add another 1,400 beds. It will be part of the Woodlands Health Campus, which will also have a community hospital and other healthcare facilities.
"Beyond Woodlands, we will take a bit of time to plan for future needs," said Mr Gan.
"Healthcare needs will expand, given the ageing population, but the care model may change. It is important to take a bit of time to plan for... future needs."
Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport, and MP for Sengkang West, said MOH is pushing for more ambulant care with shorter hospital stays, which could cut the need for hospital beds.
The average length of stay in public hospitals has already fallen from 5.9 days in 2015 to 5.5 days for the first half of this year.
Singapore faced a massive bed crunch in 2013 to 2014 as public hospitals struggled with full occupancy. Patients had to be housed along corridors and in converted carpark areas. Occupancy rates now hover around 90 per cent.
Dr Lam said the additional 1,000 acute hospital beds at SKH, which he expects to be fully opened within a year, will help with the rising demand for hospital care.
Admissions to public acute hospitals rose by about 5 per cent from 416,663 in 2016 to 436,882 last year.
Dr Lam said SKH will relieve the bed situation at KTPH and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where many residents in the north-east now visit.
These hospitals now have the highest occupancy rates in Singapore, sometimes above 95 per cent. Most private hospitals aim for 70 per cent to 80 per cent occupancy rates.
Professor Christopher Cheng, chief executive officer of SKH, said should there be a surge in demand, the two Sengkang hospitals can add 200 to 300 more beds to the 1,400 they will offer.