NTUC to offer elderly affordable nursing care

NTUC to offer elderly affordable nursing care
Elderly residents at a nursing home. The National Trades Union Congress yesterday announced plans to open its first nursing home catering to needy elderly people.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) yesterday announced plans to open its first nursing home catering to needy elderly people.

To be located at the junction of Jurong West Street 93 and Street 92, the home is expected to open in the third quarter of 2015 and accommodate about 290 people.

It will also include a senior care centre at the site that can cater to 60 more seniors.

NTUC Enterprise chairman Lim Boon Heng said NTUC Health, which beat at least six other bidders to the Ministry of Health (MOH) tender, will be "well poised" to provide holistic care for the elderly by drawing on its experience and current pool of resources.

These include doctors, pharmacists and support staff already working in its existing clinics, and day-care and senior-activity centres.

There are even plans to invest in operating an additional five nursing homes in the next three to five years, Mr Lim noted, adding that the home was a key objective when NTUC first started its elder-care services 17 years ago.

He said such a move did not happen earlier because the Government had previously limited the number of nursing homes and as NTUC did not have the resources to buy land.

The new home is classed under the Build-Own-Lease model first mooted by the MOH in 2012.

Under this scheme, the MOH bears the cost of building the facilities but tenders out the operating rights to service providers to keep costs low for patients.

NTUC Enterprise group chief executive officer Tan Suee Chieh noted that service prices are still being studied to make running the home cost-effective.

"The important thing for us is that it must be sustainable," he said. "Even if it's not, it must be within a (price) corridor we can afford. Our ambition is to help the lower-income."

Tender documents revealed that bidders were incentivised to charge patients competitive fees.

As a guide, the MOH said its subsidies are based on costs ranging from $24 a day for someone who needs minimum assistance, to $63 a day for a highly dependent patient, such as one who may have dementia and need constant supervision.

The home requires at least 80 per cent of the beds to be reserved for subsidised patients, and will need about 100 staff, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists, to run.

The lease will run for three years, with an option to extend to a maximum of nine years.

Manpower is one of the challenges the nursing home faces given the tight labour market, said Mr Lim, adding: "We can draw some staff from existing operations, (but) we will also need to tap the market for qualified nurses."

As for how NTUC is prepared to counter potential backlash from residents who might object to a nursing home within their estate, Mr Lim replied: "We believe that if we engage residents early enough, and explain to them the needs and how they themselves will benefit, then I think the reactions will be favourable."

Mr M. Subramaniam, chief executive of senior citizen care provider Sasco which put in a losing bid, said: "It's unfortunate for us, but it will be a good experience for NTUC.

"In future, we might even be able to learn something from them."

darylc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 24, 2014.
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