SINGAPORE : The Health Ministry will spend up to S$120 million to build six nursing homes in the heartlands by 2015.
One of them, Ren Ci Nursing Home, will move from its present site Jalan Tan Tock Seng to Bukit Batok.
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced the expanded programme at the Singapore Christian Home for the Aged, which will also move near an HDB town.
At its current location in Jalan Tan Tock Seng, the facilities at Singapore Christian Home for the Aged are modest for a nursing home.
But its new site at Sembawang Crescent promises better facilities and more than three times the current bed capacity – from 75 to 248.
Paul Tan, president of the Singapore Christian Home for the Aged, added: “We have our in-house therapist; we hope to have a training centre to train the houseman or all the caregivers on how to take care of old folks at home too.”
The nursing home is one of the six nursing homes that will be in the heartlands.
Two of them will be built in Buangkok and Jurong West.
An earlier announcement had mentioned that Bright Hill Evergreen will be relocated to Punggol, while Villa Francis will move to Yishun.
During his tour, Mr Khaw explained that the difference between nursing homes and those for the aged is that the aim of nursing homes is to help improve patients' health so that their patients can go home.
He said: “An elderly home is just a baby-sitter service, where unskilled workers just watch over the residents. But a nursing home is just a less intensive form of a hospital, so there must be properly skilled people, making sure that patients improve in their health outcome.”
That is why the ministry is setting up an expert panel to see how facilities at nursing homes can be improved and better equipped to provide rehabilitative care.
The panel will be chaired by Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Senior Consultant Geriatrician Associate Professor Chin Jing Jih. It will consist of local and foreign experts, including those from Australia and Hong Kong.
Mr Khaw said his ministry is also looking into reducing the over-reliance on foreign workers in nursing homes and getting more locals to join the sector.
At the Singapore Christian Home for the Aged, about 90 per cent of its 35 staff are foreigners. Of these, only five per cent are skilled workers.
But that too could change with the move.
Mr Khaw said: “The activities in nursing homes are less urgent, less emergency in nature, less acute in nature; there is therefore a lot of scope for part-time work. And I think that is why when we re-site the building, the nursing homes into the HDB towns, one added advantage is it then provides opportunities for, for example, retired workers, or housewives, who may just want to keep themselves active.”
He added that wages would have to go up to attract more locals. This could mean the cost of delivering nursing home care would also increase. However, Mr Khaw said patients would be getting better service.
Mr Khaw said moving nursing homes to the heartlands would also enable patients to be closer to their family, making visits more convenient.
MP for Sembawang GRC, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, said a dialogue session was held for residents of the three blocks of HDB flats closest to the new site for the Singapore Christian Home for the Aged. He said residents raised several concerns, which authorities took into consideration. These include whether the new building would block their view, or if there are enough carpark spaces.
The Health Ministry also said it is hoping to increase the bed capacity at the 63 nursing homes in Singapore by more than 50 per cent to 14,000 over the next five years.
The current total bed capacity at nursing homes is 9,300.
Channel News Asia