Ng Teng Fong General Hospital opened its emergency department to ambulance cases for the first time yesterday.
As at 7pm, it had seen only one patient - an 81-year-old identified only as Madam Ho. She arrived in the afternoon after suffering fits at her home in Bukit Batok.
The 700-bed Jurong East hospital began opening progressively on June 30. Its emergency department accepted only walk-ins initially but is now running at close to full steam, with Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulances able to take patients there. Other ambulance types will be accepted next February.
Dr Quek Lit Sin, head and senior consultant of emergency medicine, said the slow start may have been down to the hospital being "very lucky" or that SCDF paramedics were still taking patients to National University Hospital (NUH) - the only other hospital in western Singapore.
Madam Ho was being treated in a general ward last night.
Her daughter said her mother's medical records were at NUH, but she was glad the ambulance could take her to the new hospital in less than 10 minutes. The hospital has separate roads for ambulance and walk-in cases, for easier access.
In its first month, the emergency department took in an average of 130 walk-in patients a day, though that figure is expected to double by the end of next month. Around 20 ambulance cases a day are expected at the same time. Medical staff held more than 10 dress rehearsals for yesterday's opening in the three preceding months.
The department can handle up to 350 patients a day. It has single-bed resuscitation rooms that give patients more privacy and a three-bed resuscitation suite that can be converted into a two-bed space if medical staff require more space to work on severe trauma cases.
A 55-inch screen mounted behind each bed projects patients' scan results for doctors to make quick "collective decisions".
Two trauma lifts in the emergency department allow patients to be taken directly to operating theatres, cardiac catheterisation laboratories, endoscopy suites and the intensive care unit on the upper levels - doing away with the need to push them along corridors.
In case of the lift getting stuck, Dr Quek said medical staff could maintain a patient's condition inside it for up to 10 minutes, although an intercom is in place should this occur. He added: "We give our colleagues the confidence to carry out their work by advising them outside the lift."
This article was first published on July 28, 2015.
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