Thousands more elderly patients will soon benefit from out-of-hospital care thanks to the expansion of two health programmes.
A scheme that provides elderly people with post-discharge care to reduce their chances of being hospitalised again will be scaled up from the current base of 3,000 patients to 5,000 by the end of the year.
Another initiative, under which trained volunteers in 18 neighbourhoods keep an eye on elderly residents living near them, will be expanded to 30 districts.
This move follows the integration of the SingHealth and Eastern Health Alliance healthcare clusters, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced yesterday.
The merger of SingHealth and Eastern Health Alliance is part of a larger regrouping of Singapore's six regional health systems into three integrated clusters that is due to be completed early this year.
The National Healthcare Group and Alexandra Health System will merge, as will the National University Health System and Jurong Health Services.
The Health Ministry has said that the new entities can tap the combined strengths of the original clusters. This will allow for services to be scaled up in the expanded cluster, so residents in a wider area can benefit from them.
Speaking at the SingHealth Integrated Care Symposium held at research and training facility Academia in Outram Park yesterday, Dr Khor noted that the two schemes to be expanded have seen positive results.
Post-discharge care programme Communities of Care has helped 3,000 elderly residents in Chinatown, Tiong Bahru, Bukit Merah, Katong and Telok Blangah stay out of hospital since its launch last April.
Patients with complex medical conditions requiring close monitoring are identified by a care team at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and receive home visits and calls from them. These patients may also face social issues, such as loneliness, lack of caregiver support and financial difficulties.
The team also works with social organisations such as NTUC Health, Tsao Foundation and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities to devise a care plan for each patient, which can include support services such as home and day care, psycho-social support and financial assistance.
"If the expansion works, we are going to extend Communities of Care to CGH (Changi General Hospital) and Sengkang General Hospital by next year," said Associate Professor Lee Kheng Hock, director of the Office of Integrated Care at SGH. "Eventually, the whole SingHealth cluster will have the programme."
The other programme, Neighbours for Active Living, has halved the average number of days of hospitalisation per patient from 2.2 to one over a six-month period and reduced the duration of hospital stays from seven to four days for residents in the eastern part of Singapore, according to Dr Eugene Shum, chief corporate development officer at CGH.
Under the programme, volunteers check on elderly residents and alert the hospital if they spot any health issues. The programme was started by the Eastern Health Alliance and South East Community Development Council.
The three-day SingHealth Integrated Care Symposium gathers 680 people from Singapore health institutions to exchange ideas on how to shift the focus of healthcare beyond the hospital to the community.
Correction note: The article has been updated for clarity.