By Salma Khalik , HEALTH CORRESPONDENT
These include new heart, cancer centres and improved services
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan (third from left) at the opening of NUH's Heart Centre last month. Beside him (extreme right) was centre director Tan Huay Cheem. The new centre will help ease the strain on the near-capacity National Heart Centre at Outram. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
EVEN as new regional hospitals in Jurong and Sengkang are being planned and built, older hospitals here are being upgraded and expanded.
The 1,500-bed Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the 1,000-bed National University Hospital (NUH), known as tertiary hospitals because they treat the most complicated medical problems, will be expanded and their services souped up.
NUH will have two new disease centres specialising in heart and cancer problems, to give patients out west quicker access to top specialists.
This will take some of the strain off the near-capacity National Heart and National Cancer centres next to SGH, and is therefore a critical addition to the health infrastructure, in anticipation of the rise in the number of heart and cancer patients in an ageing population.
NUH's new Heart Centre, which opened last month, is three times bigger than the hospital's previous heart clinics together; it also provides ample space for expansion as demand for its services grows.
Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, the head of the National University Health System (NUHS), said staffing at the Heart Centre has already been upped by 35 per cent.
NUH's new cancer institute will not be ready until 2013, but recruitment of more staff is under way, and the hospital's existing cancer clinics are now able to offer patients appointments sooner.
The cancer institute will be in a new medical centre, which will also house other specialist clinics; education and research space will be nearby as well.
For many patients, however, it is the opening of the Kent Ridge MRT station this October that will give the most immediate and visible boost. NUH is one of only two public hospitals not currently served by the MRT network, the other being Alexandra Hospital.
With the opening of the station later this year, the hospital will move its main door to face the station, as that will likely be the entry point for the bulk of patients and visitors in future.
From the exit of the station, it will be a short, sheltered walk to the hospital.
Meanwhile, NUH has moved non-clinical staff out of its main hospital wing and released more parking lots to the public.
Prof Ong said once everything is in place, 'patients will enjoy greater convenience, accessible quality care and improved waiting times'.
Over at the Outram campus of SGH, the National Heart Centre will move by 2013 to a new building, where it will have 185 beds. The nine-storey structure will double the capacity of the existing centre.
The centre now handles more than 100,000 outpatient visits, 7,000 surgical and other procedures and 10,000 in-patients a year.
SingHealth's group chief executive officer, Professor Tan Ser Kiat, said the challenge for the grand dame of medicine is to add more services and facilities within the limited space in Outram.
Part of the solution lies in greater automation. The new Heart Centre, as well as other existing clinics, will be equipped with self-registration kiosks and a one-stop payment system so patients do not need to make multiple stops to pay for consultation, lab tests and medicine.
SingHealth will also group all 'solid organ' transplant services - that is, those for kidney, liver, heart and lung - under one roof by 2012. Wards will be added by 2015.
The pharmacy in Block 4 will be enlarged to twice its size by next year and occupy two floors. Workflow will be streamlined to cut waiting time for patients. SGH's other pharmacies will also be upgraded.
The twin towers across the road from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, to open in 2013, will house an enlarged pathology laboratory, research and education facilities.
They will, aptly, be named Diagnostics and Discovery.
NUH's new Heart Centre, which opened last month, is three times bigger than the hospital's previous heart clinics together; it also provides ample space for expansion as demand for its services grows. Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, the head of the National University Health System (NUHS), said staffing at the Heart Centre has already been upped by 35 per cent.
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