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17,000 nursing home beds by 2020, says MOH

The Health Ministry has ramped up its target for nursing home beds from 15,600, and is considering whether it can and should become a small-scale operator of nursing home facilities.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has ramped up its target for nursing home beds to 17,000 by 2020, up from its previous target of 15,600, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Thursday (July 31).

Speaking at the official opening of the new tower block at Society for the Aged Sick, Mr Gan outlined his ministry's plans to develop the nursing home sector, saying it may consider directly operating a few nursing homes for subsidised patients - which is a first for MOH.

The intention is to operate a small number of eldercare facilities where innovations can be developed and new care models introduced, he added. The ministry would then share successful models of care with the rest of the sector, and have a better understanding of issues on the ground.

But it is not MOH's intention to become a major player in the market, said Mr Gan. In fact, it intends to directly operate about 1,000 beds, or 6 per cent of total capacity, by 2020, he said.

To nurture the growth of bigger players, MOH will be calling for Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that will involve more than one nursing home. These nursing homes will largely be within the same geographical region so that operators can better manage resources across the homes.

The first of these larger Requests for Proposals (RFP) will be launched next month, and is open to voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and private sector organisations, said MOH. The Health Minister said potential operators must be prepared to provide more holistic care for seniors, such as home care services.

"There is no minimum capacity requirement. They just have to tender for the RFP that we put out," he said. "There would generally be maybe 400, 500, 600 beds if you put the two or three nursing homes together. If they are able to operate these two or three nursing homes in this tender, they will be considered as part of the bidders."

Mr Gan assured smaller operators that they need not worry about being pushed out by the bigger players, because there will still be a significant number of tenders targeted towards this group.  

To aid in the development of nursing home facilities, Mr Gan said suitable land parcels will be made available to the private sector.These sites will be tendered out to operators that may like to own and operate their own nursing home facilities to cater to specific market segments, he added.

In his speech, Mr Gan also said that another nine nursing homes will be built between 2017 and 2020, bringing an additional 2,000 nursing home beds. This falls under the previous target of some 15,600 beds by 2020. Training capacity is also being scaled up in order to develop manpower resources. 

160 MORE BEDS AT SOCIETY FOR THE AGED SICK

At the official opening on Thursday, the Society for the Aged Sick unveiled its nine-storey tower block, which will add 160 more beds to the facility and bring the total number of beds to 404.

Besides wards and offices, the block also houses additional facilities for residents. These include a doctor's consultation room, a dental room, a physiotherapy centre and an occupational therapy room. It is also equipped with a laboratory and classroom for staff training, the organisation stated.

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