One-stop centre cuts transplant patients' waiting time

SINGAPORE - Close to 1,000 transplant patients at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) can look forward to shorter and fewer queues at a new "one-stop" centre that officially opened on Thursday.

The transplant centre - more than 300 sq m in area - provides integrated services for patients who are preparing for or have undergone a kidney, liver or complex cornea transplant.

Bringing the patients under one roof also cuts their risk of contracting infections, given their low immunity, said Professor London Lucien Ooi, who heads transplant services for health-care cluster SingHealth, to which SGH belongs.

Patients will be cared for by doctors specialising in transplant operations and other health professionals, including nurses and physiotherapists.

In the past, they had to shuttle between different clinics for various services. Liver transplant patients, for instance, went to a clinic run by liver specialists and waited alongside patients with other liver ailments. Some also had to walk to other parts of the hospital for services such as therapy.

A typical patient would have to spend at least half a day at the hospital previously, said Prof Ooi, who also heads SGH's division of surgery.

"Different queues come with different bills. So patients have to wait again to pay," he added.

At the new centre, each patient gets only one queue number. With all the relevant experts there, patients can be called in by anyone who is available, leading to a shorter overall wait.

Kidney transplant patient David Ng, 46, visited the new centre for the first time in September and managed to see a doctor, a transplant coordinator and a pharmacy technician separately in under one hour.

He used to wait for more than two hours. "Waiting time used to be the biggest problem. I would fall asleep in the clinic," said Mr Ng, who received a donor kidney last November after being on dialysis for about 10 years.

Patients get a special "fast track" number for the pharmacy, so they do not have to join the queue there.

The Straits Times understands that no such integrated transplant facility exists in Asia. Prof Ooi said the new centre, which can handle some 160 visitors a day, is ultimately "a home designed for transplant patients".

"They are with us for life. There is nothing more important than to know where to go for help," he said.

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