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Ong Ye Kung: Public hospitals to add 4000 beds by 2030 to tackle bed crunch

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced plans to strengthen Singapore’s healthcare with 4000 new beds by 2023, addressing bed shortages. Initiatives include a new hospital in Tengah, a “virtual” ward expansion, and enhanced home-based care for seniors.

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SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health, as announced by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Wednesday (6 March), aims to bolster Singapore’s public health system by adding 4000 beds by 2023.

Among the initiatives unveiled to enhance healthcare capacity and better support the ageing population are the establishment of a new public hospital in Tengah, the expansion of a “virtual” ward model, and upgrades to home-based care for seniors.

Planning has already commenced for a new integrated general and community hospital in Tengah to cater to the growing western population of Singapore.

The hospital, to be operated by the National University Health System, is slated for completion in the early 2030s, aligning with the ministry’s goal of adding 4,000 beds by 2030, as highlighted by Minister Ong Ye Kung in parliament during the MOH’s budget debate on Wednesday.

Additional developments include Woodlands Health scaling up to 700 beds in 2024 and 2025, while Sengkang General and Outram Community hospitals will grow by about 350 beds by converting nonclinical spaces into wards from 2026.

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Elective Care Centre within the Outram Campus is set to open in 2027 with 300 beds.

Further expansions involve the redeveloped Alexandra Hospital opening progressively in 2028 and 2029, and the Eastern General Hospital campus at Bedok North, housing a new integrated facility, gradually opening in 2029 and 2030.

By the early 2030s, Singapore is set to have a total of 13 public acute hospitals and 12 community hospitals, including the upcoming Eastern General Hospital Campus in Bedok, according to the Minister.

WP MPs’ call for solutions to healthcare capacity shortfalls

Minister Ong addressed calls from MPs, including Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh and Workers’ Party MP for Sengkang GRC Associate Professor Jamus Lim, to address short-term and long-term capacity shortfalls in the healthcare system.

Mr Singh recommended implementing real-time, dynamic waiting times for emergency departments (A&Es) across hospitals.

In response,  Mr Ong said while this is technically feasible, there has been hesitancy to adopt this approach.

He added that presently, ambulances have a structured process in place to redirect patients in need of urgent care to the nearest appropriate hospital for prompt treatment. Despite this, 40% of cases at A&E are neither life-threatening nor urgent, but they still end up there.

‘So our worry is that giving dynamic information may perversely drive more non-urgent cases to hospitals and worsen the overall situation,” Mr Ong said.

Mr Ong unveiled that starting from 1 April, a pilot program providing patients the option to receive care in their homes instead of hospital wards will become a mainstream model of care in public healthcare institutions.

This Mobile Inpatient Care-at-Home (MIC@Home) pilot, launched in April 2022 to alleviate tight bed capacity in public hospitals, will offer patients a cost-equivalent alternative to acute inpatient care in public hospitals.

“Patients can be assured that they will not pay any more for this service than they do for acute inpatient care in a public hospital. All our hospitals intend to price MIC@Home similar to or lower than a normal ward,” said Mr Ong.

Subsidies, MediShield Life, and MediSave will support MIC@Home patients, with up to 300 “virtual” beds anticipated this year to augment bed capacity in public hospitals.

Seniors facing mobility challenges without family support will benefit from enhancements to the Home Personal Care service.

This service, assisting with daily living activities, will now include 24/7 technology-enabled monitoring and response elements to detect falls and incidents.

Caregivers needing respite care services can also access extended durations through the upgraded Home Personal Care, which has been rolled out as a pilot at 11 selected locations, considering higher senior density and diverse island locations.

As of January, 328 clients are enrolled under the pilot, as mentioned by Second Minister for Health Masagos Zulkifli during his parliamentary speech.

Seniors can select specific services based on their needs, and the MOH plans to evaluate the pilot by year-end before considering nationwide expansion.

MOH will also review the costs associated with the enhanced service components.

“We should not be trapped in the mindset of ‘building hospitals’ when thinking about capacity. There is potential to better anchor care outside of hospitals, and in the community.”

“Not all patients require high acuity care and constant monitoring in a hospital throughout their treatment course. Many need convalescent care and rehabilitation, with the assurance that additional medical help is readily available nearby,” Mr Ong said.

To streamline transfers from acute hospitals to community settings, increased funding will be allocated to community hospitals.

Mr Ong acknowledged challenges in patient transfer due to non-subsidized diagnostic services and expensive drugs in community hospitals. Starting from the last quarter of 2024, subsidies for CT and MRI scans, along with specific drugs, will align with acute hospitals, ensuring a subsidy rate of 50 to 80 percent throughout the inpatient stay.

This enhancement aims to reduce hospital bills for most community hospital patients.

Public concerns over lengthy waiting times at Singapore hospital despite Minsiter’s assurance of a ‘10,000-Bed-Strong System’

WP MPs had earlier raised concern about hospital capacity crunch in the parliament.

On 10 January, Assoc Prof Lim asked the Minister whether there remains shortages of hospital beds and available nursing staff in public hospitals, relative to a year ago.

He also asked what the progress of ongoing plans to increase hospital capacity; and whether public hospitals are currently facing capacity constraints, even in non-crisis environments, and, if so, why.

In response, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore is “progressively catching up” with the post-COVID hospital capacity strain.

He highlighted that the Tan Tock Seng-Integrated Care Hub (TTSH-ICH) has successfully added 300 beds since October 2023, while the upcoming Woodlands Health Campus (WHC) is slated to commence operations by mid-year, initially offering 360 beds.

Minister Ong projected WHC’s bed capacity to nearly reach 600 by year-end.

Mr Ong acknowledged that like most developed countries, Singapore continues to experience a capacity crunch post COVID-19.

He highlighted that this challenge is further compounded by an ageing population, resulting in an increased influx of elderly patients with complex health conditions necessitating extended hospital stays.

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And by 2030, we’ll need another 4,000 beds to tackle of the “bed crunch” situation of 2030. Is the ruling government looking at public healthcare of other developed countries to set their benchmarks or are they simply checking the situation across the border and using that as a benchmark? What about quality doctors and nurses to go with those hospital beds? Otherwise a hospital bed is becomes just a regular bed. I have heard plenty of horror stories regarding the low quality of healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic. What steps have the ruling government made to ensure that this never… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Blankslate

Add 4k beds for what? The floodgates are still open and the beds will fill up overnight.
Tackle the root problem which is overpopulated first.
Like that if dengue issue means buy more insecticide?

Sorry, the 4000 beds are referring to various community care beds, hospice beds, non-acute beds and then some actual acute hospital beds right?

And to add these facilities, are you going to pay an extra $100k to $200k in retaining bonus in addition to massive salary increases to increase healthcare headcounts by an extra 20k to 30k?
And all these money will come out from the pocket of the national reserve or budget right?

All Singaporeans, expect medical costs to rise further.

When there are too many overlords … On a small island …

OYK, you add beds but ICA gives out new citizenships, PRS and LTVP, you end up back in square one. Have to borrow from VB, “What school did you go to?” I am adding, to have shit brains? Please have a cabinet meeting and plug all the holes instead of announcing increased health care workers and beds.

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