NTUC Health opens second nursing home, aims for more residents to be discharged sooner

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin (right), speaker of Parliament and MP for Marine Parade GRC, at the official opening of NTUC Health Nursing Home (Chai Chee). ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - The labour movement's second nursing home was launched on Thursday (Nov 2) but it will not just focus on delivering care within its walls.

NTUC Health's new facility at Chai Chee, which can accommodate up to 350 residents, will aim to get the seniors back home as early as possible. They can then continue their rehabilitation in the community.

Mr Leon Luai, head of residential care at NTUC Health, said: "There's no better place to age in place than their own homes, hence we have devoted resources to make sure that the appropriate levels of rehabilitation is given to residents with potential for discharge."

"Building a lot more nursing homes is not the long-term solution... it is our wish that every nursing home has the ability to discharge five to 10 per cent of the residents. If we can do that, those with higher care needs can then be admitted."

To do this, NTUC Health has signed two memorandums of understanding (MOU) with Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Changi General Hospital (CGH).

It will work with SIT to develop a pool of allied health and nursing professionals and allow students to gain hands-on experience at its nursing homes.

The partnership with CGH will, among others, help to train nursing home staff in various areas, such as geriatric and dementia care.

Such efforts will help to enable patients to benefit from seamless care across different settings, said Dr Lee Chien Earn, CGH's chief executive.

The aim of discharging patients in a timely manner will also be carried out at NTUC's other nursing homes. It now has three such facilities that can provide care for close to 1,000 seniors, though it now takes care of about 600. The newest home in Geylang East, while yet to be officially opened, began admitting residents in April.

Since 2015, it has discharged 21 residents across its nursing homes, with seven from Chai Chee, its biggest facility thus far. It hopes to discharge another 20 by the end of 2018.

The Chai Chee facility brings the total number of nursing homes in Singapore to 72. The sector will, however, continue to grow, with the Health Ministry intending to develop more nursing homes so as to provide 17,000 beds in the sector by 2020, up from about 12,800 today.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who was the guest-of-honour at the launch, added that NTUC Health's effort in providing a wide range of care options is important as the Government has been working closely with the intermediate and long-term care sector to expand its overall capacity to cater to more seniors.

He added: "We as a society cannot outsource care to just healthcare providers... We as a community needs to own and be a part of it."

Besides nursing home facilities, the 11-storey complex at Chai Chee also includes a senior care centre which can serve 100 elderly people who need day care.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is a relatively new entrant in the eldercare market. It launched its first nursing home in May last year (2016). Back then, secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said that such efforts are part of its push to offer affordable services for working people.

Housewife Ang Cheh Eng, 63, was admitted into the nursing home in Chai Chee in February after she was diagnosed with cancer. Then, she also had to use a wheelchair as she could not stand from a seated position, and vice versa.

"Here,they bring me (to the therapy clinic) to do exercises, such as cycling (on a stationary bicycle). Initially it was difficult, but it became easier, although not as good as when I was able to walk," she said.

She was discharged six months later and still visits the facility twice a week for outpatient therapy such as balancing and strengthening exercises.

To help people like Madam Ang return to the community, education is paramount, noted Ms Yong Limin, senior principal physiotherapist at NTUC Health.

"The biggest challenge is that they are not aware that the journey of regaining their functions is actually possible," she said. "Helping them to change their mindset is key to helping them regain their mobility and confidence."

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