Retired cashier Tng Sai Choo chose to recuperate at the Outram Community Hospital (OCH) after her knee replacement surgery at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) last month, so that it is easier for her sister Thng Lay Choo (left) to visit her. They are at a linkway connecting OCH to SGH that allows for patient transfers. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO

It has facilities resembling a public estate to help patients adapt before returning home

The Republic's ninth community hospital was opened yesterday in Outram, the first community hospital providing step-down care in southern Singapore where government figures show there is a higher proportion of patients aged 65 years and older.

Outram Community Hospital (OCH) has been designed and furnished to resemble a public estate, so patients can learn how to adapt before they return home.

For example, the hospital has facilities that resemble the interiors of buses and trains, for patients to learn to navigate the public transport system using a wheelchair.

When the hospital is fully opened over the next three years, it will add 545 beds to the healthcare system, the Health Ministry said.

Speaking at its soft opening, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong said hospitals are seeing more frail patients who require a longer period of care.

Community hospitals, he added, play the important role of enabling patients to recover their functions and assist them to transit easier from acute hospitals to home.

Patients at OCH can perform rehabilitation exercises at the hospital's rooftop garden, where they can work on navigating different terrain such as stairs, slopes and rocky paths. There are also simulated pedestrian crossings there.

Retired cashier Tng Sai Choo, 76, chose to recuperate at OCH after her knee replacement surgery last month because it is closer to her five-room flat in Telok Blangah, where she lives with her nephew and his wife.

She is expected to be discharged by the middle of this month.

Her other option was to go to Bright Vision Hospital off Yio Chu Kang Road, a choice that would have added 30 minutes in travelling time for her sister Thng Lay Choo.

Ms Tng, who is single and works part-time at a McDonald's outlet in Alexandra Retail Centre, said in Mandarin: "My siblings live near my block, and it is easier for them to visit me at Outram Community Hospital."

Madam Thng, 63, a retired principal of a kindergarten, said: "I visit my sister almost every day... This hospital is more convenient to get to for me."

At the hospital's groundbreaking ceremony in 2015, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had said that the Bukit Merah area, which the hospital is close to, has the second-highest number of residents aged 65 and above in Singapore.

The profile of patients visiting Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is also getting older, he had said then. About 40 per cent or 32,000 of SGH's inpatient discharges involved patients aged 65 and above.

Mr Tong said that inpatient hospitalisation was often episodic and short when the population was younger so the Government concentrated its efforts on building acute hospitals.

But as the population ages, the Government is responding by building community hospitals to meet changing healthcare needs.

SingHealth Community Hospital's chief executive Margaret Lee said that OCH's close proximity to SGH can help members of its care team familiarise themselves with incoming patients' conditions.

"Our care team has the advantage of meeting incoming patients first at the SGH wards... This lets us plan their care plans early for a seamless transition and a quicker recovery," she said.

Doctors from SGH can also review their patients admitted in OCH if necessary, she added.