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Ng Teng Fong hospital delay will not impact new Sengkang hospital

Manpower training for both facilities is expected to go smoothly, and other measures are being implemented by the Ministry of Health to ease the bed crunch problem in hospitals. 

SINGAPORE: The delayed opening of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in Jurong will have minimal impact on preparations for the new Sengkang General and Community Hospitals, which is still on track to open in 2018.

This is according to a spokesman from Sengkang Health, who said on Monday (Aug 18) that manpower training will also not be affected. Training of staff and testing of new processes for the management of a new hospital are currently being carried out at Alexandra Hospital. The team at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital is currently there, and slated to hand over its operations to the Sengkang team later this year.

This step will have to be postponed, as the opening of Ng Teng Fong Hospital has been pushed back by six months due to construction issues. The delay will disappoint some Jurong residents, said Mdm Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament and Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC. “Residents have been hoping to make use of the hospital by end of the year.”

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, a member of the Medical Manpower Planning Team at Sengkang General and Community Hospitals, said medical staff currently seconded to other hospitals will continue to help care for existing patients until Alexandra Hospital is free for them.

But non-medical administrative staff may face more problems, he said. “Right now they are sharing offices with the administrative staff from Singapore General Hospital. And we are very short of office space. But most medical teams are professionals and will be able to get the services up and going."

Dr Chia, who is also the Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said that while Ng Teng Fong General Hospital was expected to help ease the bed crunch in Singapore’s hospitals, other measures will also be able to alleviate the problem. These include better streamlining of patient discharge services, and maximising step-down care facilities.

Advances in medical sciences have also helped to ease the bed crunch problem when it comes to public healthcare challenges such as dengue, he added, as doctors are now in a better position to risk-assess patients.

To mitigate the impact of the delay at Ng Teng Fong Hospital, the Health Ministry will add about 400 acute and community beds by the end of this year. Some of these are additional beds that are being added as a buffer, to meet any surge in acute demand. Hospitals also have some buffer capacity to respond to surges in demand arising from factors such as public health challenges, including isolation facilities in case of a disease outbreak.  

The ministry added that at this time, no significant delays on other projects coming up over the next year or so are expected. Additionally, it is working with hospitals to manage the bed crunch situation.

Measures include redesigning care models to allow more surgeries to be offered in the day, and more treatments to be carried out safely in an outpatient setting. Timely discharge of patients to programmes that provide post-discharge support is another way capacity is being optimised in acute hospitals. 

 

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