SINGAPORE - Nursing homes will get help from the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to raise the quality of their services as spelt out for them in Parliament last March.
The AIC said it will provide voluntary assessments and give recommendations on how these could be done. It is also prepared to provide relevant training in new areas.
Ms Lynda Soong, the chief of AIC's community care development division, said it would run through the new standards with the nursing homes and "give them a report so that they can... see where their strengths are, and where they can improve".
"Going forward, we will do a mock audit, which will help them to meet the standards." This will be done before these new standards are put in place.
More than 20 homes have already signed up for the first round of baseline assessments, which she said should start by the end of the month.
The new service standards were drafted by a committee made up of nursing home operators and health-care professionals in 2012.
In July, the Health Ministry (MOH) held a feedback exercise to get input from the public as well.
The new standards specify more clearly what nursing homes will be expected to provide from next year in three aspects: clinical areas like pain management; residents' psychosocial well-being; and organisational excellence.
Unlike the previous standards, these are "outcome-based... rather than being prescriptive", said Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor, who gave details of them at St Theresa's Home on Thursday.
This would allow nursing home providers to be more flexible when trying to improve, and allows for creativity and innovation, Dr Khor noted.
She said: "The nursing home providers and the public... agree that it is important to set standards and improve the quality of care so that residents in nursing homes can get a good quality of life even though they have high care needs."
Refinements were also made to the proposals after public feedback. One area was in "psychosocial well-being".
The public felt that it is very important to ensure that the dignity of the residents is preserved even as they are providing nursing care, Dr Khor said.
One element of this, she added, was to look after residents' "mental well-being", such as counselling unhappy residents.
MOH plans to increase the number of nursing home beds from about 10,000 now to 15,600 by 2020, Dr Khor said.
In 2012, The Straits Times reported that a contributor to the hospital bed crunch was the lack of nursing home beds, as many patients on the waiting list stay in hospital.
While the new nursing home standards will kick in by 2015, nursing homes will be given a year to adapt.
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