CHANGI General Hospital (CGH) and St Andrew's Community Hospital have started admitting patients to their new 280-bed facility.
Ten new beds for each hospital are now available for patients. CGH will have another 20 beds ready by next month.
The building is being opened gradually so staff can adjust to the new layout and improvements can be made with patient feedback.
It will be fully operational by July next year.
The building has been built with specially designed wards meant to help patients make a smoother transition to moving back home.
Each C class cubicle is a third bigger than the norm to allow caregivers to spend more time learning from nurses how to look after the patient when discharged.
The wards, which are expected to cater mainly to elderly patients, also have a terrace, dining and kitchen areas, uneven paths and a garden for them to make a smooth transition when they are discharged.
Each ward will have about 30 beds, with CGH taking charge of 200 of the 280 beds, and St Andrew's Community Hospital taking charge of the remaining beds.
CGH chief executive officer Lee Chien Earn said patients often have "a steep learning curve" when they go home and have to adjust to conditions very different from those in hospital.
Patients in the new wards are free to eat at tables rather than in bed. They are encouraged to walk about, interact with others, play games or chat. The uneven paths mimic those in public areas, and elderly patients are taught how to manage them. Dr Lee said this aims to reduce their risk of falling and give them a better quality of life on discharge.
Visiting hours for caregivers are more flexible than in the main hospital wards, to allow them to be with the patient all day to learn how to care for them. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who visited patients in the new ward yesterday, said: "We are trying out a new concept to see whether providing more space will allow the operations to be more efficient and provide better care for the patients.
"It also allows space for future expansion, in the event of a need for more capacity."
Mr Gan said the ministry is working closely with all public hospitals on how to cope with the current high demand for beds, especially with the six-month delay in opening the Jurong hospital.
CGH was criticised at the start of this year when it was forced to house some patients in a tent because of the bed crunch. This has since made way for a permanent extension to the building.
Mr Gan said different hospitals have different approaches to the problem, including discharging patients but continuing to care for them even after they have returned home.
Another move is having doctors and nurses treat chronic patients at home, so they do not need to be warded.
Mr Gan had told Parliament in October that 12 per cent of patients were re-admitted to a public hospital within 30 days of being discharged last year. Yesterday, Mr Gan expressed his appreciation and gratitude to health-care workers who "are the backbone of our health-care system" and who "work through the holidays to take care of our patients".
This article was first published on December 25, 2014.
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