Tan Tock Seng Hospital steps up community care plans to help seniors stay out of hospitals

It announces new training, partnership initiatives on its 175th birthday celebration

President Halimah Yacob speaking at Tan Tock Seng Hospitals' 175th anniversary celebration on July 27, 2019.
President Halimah Yacob speaking at Tan Tock Seng Hospitals' 175th anniversary celebration on July 27, 2019.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) celebrated its 175th anniversary yesterday by announcing a range of initiatives aimed at helping seniors stay out of hospital and get help closer to home.

These include training healthcare staff at community hospitals and volunteers to provide better localised care for seniors in their neighbourhoods, and beefing up TTSH's community health teams.

Speaking at the TTSH Founder's Day dinner at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, President Halimah Yacob commended its efforts to bring care closer to the 1.4 million residents in Singapore's central region.

"This is especially pertinent for Singapore as we face an ageing population. It is important for the health teams to be anchored in the community to help Singaporeans manage their chronic conditions well and keep them safe at their homes," said President Halimah.

One initiative TTSH started in November last year was a pilot with the Tsao Foundation, where it shares information about seniors on the foundation's Community for Successful Ageing programme who are admitted into TTSH.

These updates allow teams from both parties to identify seniors who might need early intervention and support, and also to provide targeted care after they are discharged. About 160 seniors have benefited from the initiative so far.

TTSH will also train the healthcare staff of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital’s new Chronic Sick Unit, expected to be launched in the fourth quarter of next year, to care for patients with more complex needs, such as those who have undergone tracheotomies.  

A tracheotomy is an incision made in the windpipe to relieve an obstruction to breathing. A tube is sometimes inserted to help a patient to breathe.

Kwong Wai Shiu residents will then be able to receive appropriate care without having to be sent to an acute hospital for non-emergencies.

"The future hospital is neither one that waits for patients to fall ill and come to its doors, nor one that discharges patients and leaves them without support in the community," said TTSH chief executive officer, Dr Eugene Soh. "Healthcare must evolve from a facility-centric to person-centric model."

TTSH is currently working with about 70 partners in the central area of Singapore, with each of the seven neighbourhoods under its jurisdiction served by a community health team comprising doctors, nurses, health coaches and operations staff. Its first community pharmacist is set to start providing services in Hougang, benefiting residents who require close monitoring of their medications.

The hospital's Centre for Health Activation has also launched a programme called Charge Up! with community partners to train volunteer caregivers in para-clinical skills such as medicine management and gait assessment. Charge Up! has trained 80 volunteers so far.

The community health teams also operate 80 health posts located within partners' premises for better access and communication, where they run various programmes to educate and improve the fitness of elderly patients.

Founded in 1844 by philanthropist Tan Tock Seng, TTSH was first known as the Chinese Pauper's Hospital and was located in Pearl's Hill. The hospital moved to its fourth and current location at Novena in 2000.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said TTSH will be training healthcare staff of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital's new Chronic Sick Unit to perform more complex procedures such as tracheotomies, which is incorrect. TTSH is training the Chronic Sick Unit's staff to care for patients with more complex needs, such as those who have undergone tracheotomies. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 28, 2019, with the headline 'TTSH steps up community care plans to help seniors stay out of hospitals'. Subscribe