SINGAPORE: Converting nursing homes to all single and double-bedded rooms will hurt the affordability of care, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Saturday (Oct 22), responding to remarks made by Lien Foundation CEO Lee Poh Wah in an interview with 938LIVE.
Mr Lee went “On the Record” with 938LIVE’s Bharati Jagdish, where he spoke on various issues, including the work of philanthropic organisations such as the Lien Foundation in the areas of elderly care.
In the interview, Mr Lee said that the Lien Foundation had the initial backing of MOH when it tried to offer “cost-effective” alternatives at the 60-bed Jade Circle Nursing Home, a joint development by Peacehaven, the Lien Foundation and Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation. But a year later, Mr Lee said MOH proposed to combine the two twin-bedded rooms to four-bedded rooms instead, and to only offer the option of single and double-bedded rooms to private patients.
Plans to build the S$15 million four-storey Jade Circle Nursing Home in Changi were called off in 2015 after it was unable to secure government subsidies.
According to MOH, the Economics of Singapore Nursing Home Care study commissioned by Lien Foundation and Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation released in July this year “under-estimated the cost of providing single and double-bedded rooms at nursing homes”.
Based on calculations by MOH - derived based on actual experience of nursing homes - development costs could “almost double” if nursing homes were to comprise only single and double-bedded rooms.
The health ministry added that operating costs will increase significantly as a result of the conversion. “The primary reasons are the need for additional space and manpower, both of which are scarce in Singapore,” it said. “More land may also be needed to build additional nursing homes.”
MOH also explained that there will be an escalation in cost if all nursing homes were to only have single and double-bedded rooms. The cost will ultimately be borne by patients and their families, as well as taxpayers, it added.
MOH further clarified that it will support with development cost and operating subvention if the Jade Circle project could be adjusted to try out different room configurations including single, double- as well as four-bedded rooms. It added that should the Lien Foundation and Peacehaven insist on building only single or double-bedded rooms, they could still tap on MOH’s portable subsidy scheme that comes with up to 75 per cent subsidy for private nursing homes, so that eligible patients staying in these rooms can still enjoy government subsidy.
Noting the significant costs associated with constructing and operating nursing homes that comprise all or mostly single rooms, MOH reiterated that it will continue to provide a mix of room types to meet the diverse needs of seniors.
“Nursing homes have also pointed out that not everyone prefers single rooms,” the health ministry said. “We will have single rooms in the mix, especially for residents who need a quiet time. We will calibrate the mix of single and multi-bedded rooms carefully, and review this mix from time to time.”