October 3, 2023
SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has added close to 500 beds to alleviate the bed crunch, and is on track to open around 800 more by the year end.
The nearly 500 beds comprise 30 at acute hospitals, 90 at community hospitals, 20 at Mobile Inpatient Care @ Home and over 350 at nursing homes.
This was announced by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at the opening of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital-Integrated Care Hub (TTSH-ICH) on Monday.
He said the public healthcare system has been under quite a bit of stress after the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was partly due to the delay in infrastructure development and a rise in the number of patients at hospitals for other illnesses in the wake of Covid-19.
In April, patients who needed hospitalisation were waiting longer to get beds due to the high volume of both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients. The ministry said then that the median wait time went up from five hours to 7.2 hours.
“We have been exploring ways to add beds to our healthcare capacity by the end of this year. I announced earlier that we intend to find space in existing hospitals to add more acute beds, and open more community hospital beds, Mobile Inpatient Care @ Home, transitional care facilities, as well as nursing homes,” Mr Ong said.
The additional capacity of about 1,300 beds is equivalent to 1½ regional hospitals when it is realised by the end of the year, he added.
MOH will continue to monitor both the infrastructure development and manpower inflows to ensure that they increase in tandem.
In the long term, there are major infrastructure projects such as the Eastern Integrated Health Campus and the redevelopment of Alexandra Hospital, which will be completed towards the end of the decade, and the Woodlands Health Campus that will start in phases from the end of 2023.
“But these are major developments that take many years. In the short term, we still need to do something,” Mr Ong said.
He added that with the opening of TTSH-ICH, “we take another step forward in addressing the tight bed situation of the public healthcare system”.
The new hub, which is part of the 17ha HealthCity Novena development in central Singapore, offers various step-down care services, including palliative care. When fully completed, it will have over 600 beds, 300 of which are dedicated to the rehabilitation of stroke patients and the elderly.
It is located next to the main TTSH building, and they are connected by a link bridge.
By November, Dover Park Hospice will also move into ICH to better provide end-of-life care for its patients.
Mr Ong said: “By having hospice services co-located with rehabilitation services, it paves the way for us to pilot new palliative care models. We hope that by integrating rehabilitation into palliative care, we can enrich the quality of life for those with serious illnesses and maximise healing and comfort for patients and also their families.”
The hub has home-fit training rooms – for patients and caregivers to gain confidence in daily routines and become fit to go home – and a living resource studio, both designed to look like a home instead of a hospital ward.
This will help both patients and their caregivers transition better from hospital to home, said ICH clinical director Lee Liang Tee.
He added that ICH is also looking at taking in dementia patients and the elderly with frailty in the near future.