New hospital's opening delayed

Bed crunch: Beds lined up in a corridor at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
PHOTO: New hospital's opening delayed

It was scheduled to open in December.

But the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) will now open only in the middle of next year.

This is due to a shortage of construction workers and a delay in the production and delivery of materials, said a spokesman for GS Engineering & Construction, which is responsible for the project.

Said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong: "I am disappointed that the NTFGH has been delayed and we will not be able to open the hospital as planned in December this year.

"Our priority is to work with JurongHealth to avoid further delays and ensure that overall capacity in the public health-care system is not adversely affected, and patient care will not be compromised."

NTFGH is one of the hospitals under the Healthcare 2020 masterplan to ramp up health infrastructure here.

Unveiled by Mr Gan during the Committee of Supply debate in March, the opening of the NTFGH and the Jurong Community Hospital progressively from end of the year was supposed to add 760 acute and community hospital beds.

Measures

To ensure that there will be enough bed capacity in hospitals to meet health-care needs despite the six-month delay, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has several measures in the pipeline.

The 330-bed Alexandra Hospital (AH) was scheduled to close temporarily after NTFGH's opening.

Now, AH will remain open at full capacity until the new hospital is ready, said Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, the director of medical services at MOH.

The ministry will also speed up efforts to expand capacity in other areas. For instance, the new 280-bed Changi General Hospital-St Andrew's Community Hospital Integrated Building will progressively open from December to the first half of 2015.

MOH will also work with various hospitals to add about 150 beds - spread between National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital - by the end of the year to mitigate the impact of the delay.

Finally, MOH will work with hospitals to better facilitate the timely discharge of patients. This includes:

1) Shifting more operations to day surgeries and having more treatment done in outpatient settings;

2) Introducing alternatives to admissions, like having day surgeries done on the day of a patient's visit

3) Facilitating referrals from acute hospitals to long-term care settings

4) Expanding nursing home capacity between now and the end of next year.

JurongHealth's chief executive officer Foo Hee Jug apologised to those who had been looking forward to the new hospital.

"We know that the community in the west has been counting down with us for the health-care facilities to be up as soon as possible," he said.

"We will continue to push on with the contractors for the construction to be completed and make full use of this additional time to further sharpen our state of readiness.

"Our key priority is to open the hospital smoothly and safely for our patients," he said.

This article was first published on August 18, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.