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MOH’s nursing homes will improve standard of eldercare services: experts

Healthcare industry players say there will be an improved standard of care at nursing homes when the Ministry of Health (MOH) operates its own eldercare facilities.

SINGAPORE: Healthcare industry players say there will be an improved standard of care at nursing homes when the Ministry of Health (MOH) operates its own eldercare facilities.

MOH plans to operate a few nursing homes of its own so that it can develop innovations in eldercare and share successful models of care with the rest of the sector. But while this may mean better innovation in the nursing home sector, there will also be competition for manpower.

To prevent falls for elderly patients getting out of bed, Peacehaven Nursing Home developed a prototype call system two years ago - a switch connected to the bed rail is triggered once a patient moves from the bed, alerting staff. But the nursing home has had problems bringing the prototype to fruition, and is hoping that the nursing homes operated by MOH would also share innovations that they come up with.

Low Mui Lang, executive director of Peacehaven Nursing Home, said: "In the nursing home, we carry out a few innovations. We do prototyping. But we do have difficulties because we don't have the additional manpower.

“MOH will have the ability to employ a project manager to be in charge of innovation. And this project manager can actually work through with the nursing home that they have to do the design-thinking and come up with prototyping. And after the prototyping, the ministry and I would see that they would have the platform to bring this prototyping to Spring Singapore or to any other vendor to be able to produce the product. "

While Madam Low welcomes new models of care in the nursing home sector, she says there is still some apprehension that government-run nursing homes may be in a better position to attract trained staff, compared to other nursing homes.

Madam Low said: "Maybe MOH will be able to recruit professional staff and pay them competitively as compared to the hospitals, which currently some of us are still struggling with. So MOH will be in a better position to recruit trained staff. For us, our current system is such that we hire foreign staff and we upgrade them into enrolled nurses and registered nurses. So our staff in our homes take a longer time to upgrade, whereas those in MOH, they would be able to attract those with hospital experience."

Some healthcare analysts however say competition in the nursing home sector is good, even if costs increase. Associate Professor Phua Kai Hong from Heath Policy and Management at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said: "If it is lucrative enough, many more private operators would come in and if the standards are raised, obviously costs would have to go up. But if it is a necessary demand, it is a more optimal solution rather than to resort to just providing more medical care."

The overall consensus of having MOH run its own nursing homes is that it will raise the standards and improve the overall quality of care of the nursing home sector. But manpower resources still remain a key concern and it is something that has to be tackled through intensive training. 

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