Joe Tham often plays
musical chairs at work.
In planning the
renovation of a ward,
clinic or other facility,
the Project Manager
at Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH)
Facilities Development Department has
to consider how and where to move
“We don’t have a lot of space at SGH,
so we need to do some musical chairs,”
said Mr Tham.
Patients can be admitted to another
ward when, for instance, the renal ward is being
renovated, but it is not possible to close the
renal ward’s dialysis centre without a backup
as patients need to undergo dialysis every day.
“We first decant the ICA (intensive care
area, a part of the renal ward) and the renal
ward to build a dialysis centre in its place.
Once the new centre is completed, the old
one will be decommissioned, and the space
is then used to build the new ICA and renal
ward,” said Mr Tham.
Moving patients to different wards is just
part of the work that goes into designing,
building and renovating healthcare spaces
in SGH. It suits Mr Tham to a T, however,
as he describes himself as being a
hands-on person who has had a passion
for architecture and design since young.
He studied architecture, then specialised in
interior design. Before joining SGH
14 years ago, he was a project manager in
commercial projects and office buildings.
Mr Tham is one of 23 architects, quantity
surveyors, project managers, civil and
mechanical engineers, interior designers,
and administrative staff in his department.
Each team in the department is responsible
for different areas in the hospital — wards,
outpatient clinics, operating theatres, scan
rooms and intensive care units. Team members,
however, can choose to be rotated to different
areas to enhance their skills and knowledge.
When planning projects, the team holds
regular meetings with users to understand
their requirements. Specialists from
other disciplines, such as housekeeping,
nursing, facilities maintenance engineering, environmental services and
infection control, are also
represented at these meetings to
help highlight needs and limitations, and
Depending on the level of complexity,
projects can take years to materialise.
For example, the renal ward that
Mr Tham’s team is working on took three
years of planning and approvals alone. Other
considerations include building and safety
regulations, age- and handicap-friendly design
elements, as well as corporate designs.
“What I like most about my job is
solving problems. When we are faced with
a challenge and we manage to get new ideas
and come up with solutions, it really brings
me satisfaction,” said Mr Tham, adding that
to him, good design incorporates answers to
Mr Tham’s association with SGH goes
back to his childhood. His family lived in
the Outram area, and his grandmother
ran a wanton noodle stall nearby that was
frequented by SGH nurses and doctors.
The father of a 16-year-old daughter enjoys
hiking, running and cycling. He finds hiking a
great way to spend quality time with his wife,
who works in another hospital, and they go to
places like MacRitchie Reservoir Park to keep
fit and healthy.
Mr Tham is better known among
colleagues as a cyclist who took part in the
epic 13.5-hour SGH Bicentennial 200km
Ride in March 2021 to raise money for the
SGH Needy Patients Fund. Riding 200km
in a day was extremely tough, as the fickle
weather alternated between drizzles, sunny
skies and heavy downpours throughout that
day. Nonetheless, he found the experience
very meaningful, and is participating in a
201km ride later this year for the same cause.
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