New Yishun Community Hospital opens
THE 428-bed Yishun Community Hospital (YCH) opened its doors to patients yesterday, a move that should ease the bed crunch faced by the adjoining Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).
Two wards, with 68 beds in total, are now open, said Pauline Tan, Singapore's former Chief Nurse who now heads YCH. Five wards, with 170 beds in all, will be opened by next April, she added.
The hospital will gradually open its other wards but is not expected to be fully opened by next year.
Yesterday, the new hospital took in its first dozen patients, all recovering patients from the 590-bed KTPH, where space is tight. Its occupancy rate averages more than 95 per cent - the highest of all public hospitals here.
About 200 of YCH's beds can be converted for use by KTPH should the need arise. Such "swing beds" are now the norm for community hospitals next to a general hospital.
The new hospital, which will also house the Geriatric Education and Research Institute, costs $320 million. Community hospitals generally cost about half that of a general hospital to build and operate, as its patients are not critically ill but rather, are on the road to recovery.
Dr Tan said the hospital is opening "on time and on budget".
YCH mimics the home environment, added Dr Tan. Patients who are able to, have to eat their meals in the dining area and not in bed. The idea is to get them well and home as soon as possible, she said.
Alexandra Health System (AHS), which runs KTPH and YCH, has a team of 30 people - nurses, therapists and a doctor - that visits patients at home to help them manage their transition back home and any chronic ailments.
Speaking to the media after a tour of YCH yesterday, Chee Hong Tat, Minister of State for Health, said more than 900 hospital beds have been added this year, with more in the next two years as Sengkang and Outram hospitals come on line.
He said the Ministry of Health has been building up capacity to prepare for the nation's rapidly ageing population, which is expected to require greater healthcare services.
The challenge, he said, is to ensure long-term sustainability. If healthcare costs cannot be kept in check, "it could end up adding to a patient's financial burden".
One way is to use technology to reduce the need for manpower, Mr Chee said. The four hoists YCH has in two of its wards, which cost $160,000, is an example.
These hoists, which run on ceiling tracks, require only two nurses to move a heavy, non-ambulatory patient from bed to chair or bathroom. Without the hoist, four or five nurses are needed.
Another way to keep healthcare costs in check is to work closely with the private and voluntary sectors to promote healthy living so people stay out of hospital, he said.
Mr Chee was happy to note that the patients he spoke to were all hoping to go home soon.
Security guard Sulaiman Kamsani, 58, who has been in and out of hospital over the past two months for a heart problem and an infection, said: "My daughter's getting engaged. She's waiting for me to get home."
Housewife Lim Soon Kiow, 71, wants to go home too, as soon as the infection in her leg is cured.
Wong Sweet Fun, a senior geriatric physician with AHS, said while patients are warded, doctors will check if they have anything else that needs fixing.
Both Mr Sulaiman and Madam Lim, for example, have missing teeth. Dr Wong said they would be sent to the dental clinic in the hospital to get dentures fixed.