New facility prepares patients to go home

New facility prepares patients to go home

SINGAPORE - Construction of a building to host a new model of care that could ease patients smoothly back home after hospitalisation began yesterday.

The Integrated Building, a collaboration between Changi General Hospital (CGH) and St Andrew's Community Hospital (SACH), will help prepare patients for the transition back to daily life in a facility designed to feel like a home.

The $200 million, 280-bed facility will be organised by wards made up of clusters of beds and amenities. The Class C ward, for instance, will have three clusters, each with 10 beds.

Each cluster will have a living room, a terrace and a multi-purpose room in addition to patient beds. The living room will be airy and full of sunlight, which research has shown to be effective against superbugs. Patients can have therapy and interact with other patients there.

Those well enough to get out of bed will be encouraged to eat at the multi-purpose space with other patients and even family or friends.

On top of the common areas for the cluster, each ward will also have its own dining, family and therapy areas.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong was the guest of honour at the ground-breaking ceremony at CGH. In his speech, CGH chief executive Lee Chien Earn said patients in hospitals mostly stay in bed. This relative inactivity can make it difficult to adjust to going home to their regular routines.

The Integrated Building will increase the intensity of rehabilitation and have patients play an active role in their recovery in hospital by encouraging them to be "as independent as they can be", said Dr Lee, who is also chairman of the hospital planning committee.

Planners borrowed ideas from existing facilities in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Washington-based environmental gerontologist Emi Kiyota, an expert in designing elderly-friendly health-care facilities, was a consultant.

Ms Selena Seah, CGH's assistant CEO of development, said such an integrated positive approach to care could lower the odds of patients being re-admitted for the same problems, improve their daily functioning and save them more problems down the road.

Studies have shown that patients who begin rehabilitation early, recovery faster and have suffer fewer complications.

In future, the number of elderly people living alone or with an ageing caregiver is set to rise. By ensuring that patients do well upon discharge not only improves their quality of life but also places less burden on caregivers and lessens the risk of a patient ending up in a nursing home, said SACH chief executive Loh Yik Hin.

The new wing, which will be connected to SACH and CGH through link bridges, will have features that are suitable for elderly patients and those recovering from injury, illness or surgery who require rehabilitation. It will house a full range of rehabilitation services.

The Centre for Independent Living is a mock-up of a three-room flat to test if patients are ready to return to a home setting.

The Therapy Garden will let patients navigate a green and soothing environment, with built-in slopes, curbs, ramps and steps to mimic what may be obstacles for recovering patients at home.

The idea is to incorporate therapeutic activities into the patient's environment, said Dr Loh.

To be completed by end-2014, the eight-storey Integrated Building will have 180 beds managed by CGH and 100 by SACH.

About 850 health-care professionals - mostly nurses and therapists - will be needed. Recruitment is under way.

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