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Hospital-bed crunch eased for now

TAKING EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES: The bed crunch led to the 800-bed Changi General Hospital having to house patients waiting for beds in a large air-conditioned tent. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES


    Jan 21, 2014

    Hospital-bed crunch eased for now

    THE severe bed crunch at Singapore hospitals earlier this month will be plugged for now with more beds and a timely discharge of patients, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament yesterday.

    The patients may be discharged to other care settings like community hospitals, nursing homes and patients' homes.

    The Government, said Mr Gan, will also help to initiate transfers from acute hospitals tight on beds to other hospitals with a higher bed capacity.

    In the medium term, 1,200 beds will be added to acute and community hospitals, as well as nursing homes, by year end. Another 10,000 beds will be added by 2020, with at least six more acute and community hospitals scheduled to be open by then.

    More eldercare facilities, including 12 new and replacement nursing homes, will also be built by 2016.

    Mr Gan was responding to Dr Lam Pin Min, a Member of Parliament for Sengkang West, who had asked for an update on the bed-crunch situation.

    Earlier this month, it was reported that several hospitals were forced to take extraordinary measures as a result of the bed crunch. The 800-bed Changi General Hospital had to house patients waiting for beds in a large air-conditioned tent and 1,200-bed Tan Tock Seng Hospital lined the corridors of its wards with 49 beds to cope with demand.

    The bed-occupancy rate rose to 87.2 per cent early this year, up from the 85.8 per cent in the same period last year.

    An ageing population with a larger number of people aged 65 and above are being admitted to public hospitals - from 28.6 per cent in 2006 to 33.4 per cent last year, he said. These patients also stay longer, from an average of 7.8 days in 2010 to 8.2 last year.

    Mr Gan stressed that, ultimately, Singapore needs to look at the issue of caring for the elderly from a more holistic standpoint. He said: "We need to help our senior population stay healthy and manage their chronic conditions better so that they do not need to be hospitalised frequently."

    He also addressed a question by non-constituency MP Gerald Giam from the Workers' Party on whether foreigners added to the bed crunch.

    The minister said that foreign patients comprise less than 2 per cent of hospital beds here, and some of them come for day operations, for example, and therefore "don't impose a significant stress on our hospital beds".