National Skin Centre set to triple in size

SINGAPORE - The National Skin Centre (NSC) is set to triple in size over the next five years following a "significant increase in the demand for dermatological services", said its director, Dr Roy Chan.

The centre now sees 1,000 patients a day - a 30 per cent increase since 2004 - for a variety of skin diseases from the bane of teenagers such as acne and pimples to serious problems such as skin cancer and psoriasis.

Dr Chan said the top three conditions that dermatologists at the NSC treat are eczema, skin infections and acne.

The bigger building in Novena will have more space for research and training. It will also house the National Healthcare Group (NHG) headquarters, currently situated in Commonwealth Lane.

Professor Chee Yam Cheng, chief executive officer of the NHG, said the current location of its headquarters made sense when the National University Hospital (NUH) was part of the group.

The group offices were then midway between its two big hospitals - NUH and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

But NUH was hived off in 2008 to form the National University Health System.

NHG now comprises TTSH, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the Communicable Disease Centre and nine polyclinics in the west.

"Now since TTSH is the flagship hospital of NHG, with NSC on the same site - and only the IMH off site - the obvious location is to shift the headquarters to Novena," Prof Chee said.

The annexe, to be built where the carpark now is, will be merged with the current building to give patients a seamless experience.

The Health Ministry (MOH) has called for architects and project managers with a solid history in projects worth $50 million or more to submit their applications by Monday.

An MOH spokesman said: "The plan to expand the National Skin Centre is part of the ministry's Healthcare 2020 masterplan to build up infrastructure capacity to better serve the growing health-care needs of Singaporeans."

Part of the requirement is little or no disruption to the ongoing clinical work of the skin centre.

As the annexe will occupy the current carpark, the project includes building a temporary carpark to house about 265 vehicles.

The project also calls for the current centre to be retrofitted and reorganised to make it more efficient, optimise the space and meet regulatory requirements.

For patients and visitors, the connection between the old building and the annexe must appear seamless. There must also be space for "growing demands in research, training and manpower development".

Dr Chan told The Straits Times: "We need to expand our facilities to cope with increasing demand for clinical services, for enhancing training and education facilities and advancing our research programme."

Asked about the decision to expand and upgrade rather than construct a new building, Dr Chan said: "There is no site to build an entirely new NSC in the Novena area, where we have made our mark and where we intend to stay."

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