SINGAPORE - Some 3,700 health-care workers joined the sector last year, helping to keep on track the Government's plans to expand both manpower and facilities up to 2020.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that represented an 8 per cent increase in staffing, even as the demand for hospital beds climbed steadily by 4 per cent a year for the past five years.
Much of this increase is due to an ageing population, since demand by foreign patients has remained a stable 2 per cent.
Mr Gan said that, on average, and even with government subsidies, a 65-year-old spends three times the amount a 45-year-old does on hospital care.
The high demand has also been driven by "significantly better and more accessible" health care. More advanced medical treatments and technologies have become more common and achieved better outcomes for patients, he said.
In the short term, Mr Gan said the National University Hospital (NUH) will add 79 more beds this year. There will also be another 100 community hospital beds and over 500 more nursing home beds by the end of the year.
The NUH's new medical centre, which opens in July, will increase the number of specialist outpatient clinics and day surgery operating theatres.
The opening of four more community hospitals and two general hospitals by 2020 will give Singapore 4,100 more hospital beds.
That is about 10 per cent or 400 more beds than projected in the Healthcare 2020 masterplan, announced last year.
Mr Gan also announced the setting up of three more community health centres, in Bedok, Jurong East and Tiong Bahru, later this year. The pilot was launched in 2011 in Tampines. It has proven popular with GPs, who can send their patients there for support services they do not provide, such as diabetic eye screening.
As for recruiting more health-care workers, Mr Gan said the priority is "to grow our local health-care manpower supply". But foreign health-care workers will still be needed, to help meet "health-care needs, add diversity to the sector and help develop our capabilities in various clinical specialities", he said.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will also invest more in training by giving $50 million more to institutions this year so they can "enhance their capacity to deliver good quality clinical training".
Beyond 2020, Mr Gan anticipates the need to build four more general hospitals and six to eight more polyclinics. The MOH is studying regional demographic profiles to decide the locations.
For the rest of this year, Mr Gan said he will pay greater attention to two areas.
One is to enhance the quality of elder care by setting guidelines and standards for nursing homes.
The other is to improve access and affordability of services so older patients can be cared for at home. Home nursing, home medical and personal care services will be expanded.
Elderly patients often have needs which encompass not just the medical but possibly also the social and financial. The Centre for Enabled Living will become part of the Agency for Integrated Care, so they need turn to only one place for help.
Mr Gan also gave an update on the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas). There are now 250,000 people with Chas cards, which allow them to receive treatment at GP and dental clinics while enjoying government subsidies.
New health facilities
- NUH Medical Centre - more specialist clinics and day surgery theatres
- NUH adds 79 more beds
- Ang Mo Kio Thye Hua Kwan Community Hospital adds 50 beds
- St Luke's Community Hospital adds 50 beds
- Opening of Community Health Centres in Bedok, Jurong East and Tiong Bahru
- Launch of Family Medicine Clinics in Clementi, Lakeside, Ang Mo Kio and Bedok
- More than 500 additional nursing home beds
- 3 Senior Care Centres with day rehabilitation and day care
Ng Teng Fong General Hospital opens
- Jurong Community Hospital opens
- Yishun Community Hospital opens
- 10 new nursing homes
- 39 Senior Care Centres
- 56 Seniors' Activity Centres
- Jurong West Polyclinic opens
- Punggol Polyclinic opens
- Sengkang General Hospital opens
- Sengkang Community Hospital opens
- Outram Community Hospital opens
- Four polyclinics, bringing total to 25
- Four new general hospitals, raising total to 12
- 6 to 8 more polyclinics, bringing total to 31 to 33.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.