The opening of the Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) and Sengkang Community Hospital (SKCH) later this month will make it easier for people living in the north-east to receive quality and affordable healthcare closer to home, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Speaking at the SKH Campus Community Health Fair yesterday, he said that through partnerships with the National Heart Centre, Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and the National Cancer Centre, among others, the SKH campus will also offer residents easy access to specialist services.

These specialist centres are part of the SingHealth group to which the two hospitals belong.

Professor Christopher Cheng, chief executive officer of SKH, said experts from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), also part of SingHealth, will provide antenatal care at the SKH, but women will need to go to KKH to give birth.

Professor Wong Tien Yin, medical director of the SNEC, said the eye centre will provide seven to 10 specialists for SKH, as well as nursing staff.

They will be able to treat patients for cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, as well as trauma cases affecting the eyes. But if the eye problem is more serious, patients will be referred to the SNEC for further care, he added.

He said this was the new model of care in the SingHealth cluster, where specialists from the heart and cancer centres would treat patients at regional hospitals such as SKH and Changi General Hospital.

Prof Cheng said SKH has adopted the best practices of existing hospitals. For example, its emergency department follows that of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and separates serious ambulance cases from walk-in patients. Emergency doctors from other hospitals had said this was the best way to get very sick patients the speediest care.

At SKH, patients with multiple problems will have one primary specialist who will coordinate all his treatments "from pre-illness to discharge back to the community", said Prof Cheng.

The two Sengkang hospitals share a central kitchen which can deliver up to 1,500 meals per meal period. It can also provide a variety of normal meals and cater to special dietary requirements.

There is also a modern rehabilitation centre with the latest equipment to help patients recover as fully as possible.

The majority of beds in the two hospitals will be in subsidised B2 and C class wards. SKCH will have 17 beds for palliative care.

Each subsidised ward has five beds with an adjoining air-conditioned nursing station. These wards also have fans and natural ventilation.

The only difference between a C class ward, which offers a 65 per cent to 80 per cent subsidy, and a B2 ward, which offers a 50 per cent to 65 per cent subsidy, is separate toilet and shower facilities in the B2 ward. In the C class ward, a patient who wants to use the toilet must wait if another is having a shower.

Ms Margaret Lee, chief executive officer of SingHealth Community Hospitals, expects patients to stay about three weeks at the community hospital before being discharged. Like other new community hospitals, patients are encouraged to eat at a table rather than in bed, and to relax in a lounge area.

SingHealth Community Hospitals includes the 317-bed Bright Vision Hospital in Lorong Napiri off Yio Chu Kang Road, and will later include the Outram Community Hospital which will open at the Singapore General Hospital campus in 2020.