Tuesday 29 May 2012

No to nursing home, say Bishan residents

About 40 people signed petition to oppose MOH plan
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 28 May 2012

NOT in my neighbourhood, please.

In the latest example of Singaporeans not wanting certain amenities in their estate, a group of Bishan residents are clamouring for a nursing home to be sited elsewhere.

The Ministry of Health plans to build a 260-bed nursing home on a 0.3ha site facing three blocks of flats in Bishan Street 13.

The Lions Home for the Elders will be six to eight storeys tall.

At a dialogue held at Bishan Community Club yesterday to discuss the issue, about 20 residents voiced their opposition.

Some wanted the Government to scout for other sites while others lamented the loss of the site which is now used as a football field.

This episode comes just over a week after residents in Upper Bukit Timah banded together in a bid to block the development of taller condominiums in their neighbourhood.

In another incident in February, residents of Toh Yi estate protested against the Housing Board's plans to build studio apartments there for the elderly.

This time, a petition with about 40 names was handed to a Health Ministry representative at the dialogue attended by about 200 residents.

Mr Wong Kan Seng, who is the MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was also there.

The ministry had sent a circular to residents last week, informing them of plans for the home.

Retiree Seet Ker Lay, 70, said at the dialogue: 'My house looks directly down at the field. Our children play football there. If there is no football field, they will play in the void deck and stain the walls.'

Another resident, 41-year-old Bernard Lau, said 'the old folk will be groaning right into my home'.

He added: 'If their kids are going to skirt their responsibility and dump them there, then they can travel farther to visit them.'

Resident Cheong Weng Kit, 44, an IT manager who penned the petition, asked Mr Wong if he would pay his electricity bills.

The petition spells out a $7.56 million electricity bill that would supposedly be incurred by affected residents over 70 years.

The residents argue that if the home is set up, air flow to their homes will be blocked and they will have to use the air-conditioner more often to dispel the heat.

Mr Wong told the residents Singapore's ageing population means that residents have to be prepared for the building of more nursing homes. By 2030, every constituency will have one, he said.

Speaking to reporters after the two-hour event, he said it was 'quite normal' for residents to feel the way they did.

'Nobody who has gotten used to breeze and a piece of land on which their children can play football would want to see a building come up on it,' he noted.

He added that the home will have facilities for residents too.

It will, for instance, set aside five to seven beds for those who want respite from looking after their elderly relatives.

Bishan East is a middle-aged town, with 2,700 residents, or 11.3 per cent of its population, above the age of 65 - higher than the national average of 9.3 per cent.

Such statistics were shared at the dialogue helmed by the Health Ministry's group director of ageing planning Teoh Zsin Woon.

She said nursing homes are placed within communities to encourage visits.

The Bishan site was chosen because it was of an appropriate size and close to public transport options.

The distance from the proposed home to the nearest flats will be between 20m and 30m.

The ministry will consider all the concerns and suggestions for alternative sites before making a decision on where the home will be located in Bishan.

But not all residents are against the plan.

Full-time national serviceman Faraaz Amzar, 19, who plays football on the field, said he is willing to play elsewhere.

'As a young person, it seems strange to me that elderly people should object to building a nursing home that is meant to meet their needs,' he said.

Views sought 'few months before construction'
Residents can raise issues such as services, traffic concerns at dialogues

By Poon Chian Hui, The Straits Times, 29 May 2012

EVERY time a nursing home is to be built, the views of residents will be sought at least a few months before any actual work on the ground begins, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday.

During such dialogues, residents can raise issues such as traffic concerns, design features of the home and the services it will provide.

They can also give their take on where roads that lead into the home should be sited.

The ministry yesterday elaborated on its consultation process when it comes to building nursing homes in residential areas.

This comes after yet another case of the 'not in my backyard' syndrome - this time in Bishan.

At a dialogue on Sunday, about 40 residents petitioned against the building of a home in Bishan Street 13 on what is now a football field.

They cited concerns like the loss of recreational space, how the old folks would be 'groaning right into' their flats, and how they would incur higher utility bills because the home would block the breeze they now enjoy.

The 260-bed Lions Home for the Elders will be six to eight storeys high and is scheduled to be built by end-2014.

The protest follows a similar incident in Bukit Batok last September, when residents were told that the Ren Ci Nursing Home would be relocated there.

After several dialogues, plans were revised, including the addition of a daycare facility in the new home for elderly residents.

A ministry spokesman noted that six new nursing homes will be built in HDB estates over the next few years.

A site is decided after agencies like the Urban Redevelopment Authority, HDB, Land Transport Authority and the PUB are consulted.

If the site is technically feasible, the MOH will get feedback from the area's adviser and his grassroots leaders, and this will be incorporated in the proposal.

She added: 'We will work with the advisers and grassroots leaders to engage the residents, at least a few months before any actual work on the ground.'

These sessions will allow the ministry to explain the home in detail and discuss residents' concerns.

Given land constraints, the challenge is often to balance the national need for aged care and the impact on residents, who may have concerns about loss of a sense of space they are used to.

MOH will try to minimise the impact of the home, she said.

However, the ministry stopped short of saying it will consider new sites for such developments.

MP Chia Shi-Lu, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said that it was not necessarily a bad thing when residents petition against a home as it can open up a channel to better understand why they are unhappy. 'Is it because of misconceptions of nursing homes? Unhappiness about the potential noise and dust?' he said.

'It would be unfair to label the petitioning residents as 'elder-unfriendly' without a thorough investigation.'

As for Bishan East, MOH said the next step is to consider the feedback it got on Sunday. Residents will be updated on the plans.

Six more homes in residential areas by 2015

BESIDES the new nursing home coming up in Bishan East, six more homes will be introduced into the heartlands by 2015. Two will be new, while the rest are existing homes relocating to residential areas.

The six are part of a $120-million government plan to ramp up nursing home capacity and facilities.

Currently, there are about 65 nursing homes with some 9,400 beds. The Health Ministry aims to add about 560 beds every year from 2013 to 2015.

New homes:
- Buangkok 
- Jurong West
To be relocated:
- Bright Hill Evergreen Home - from Senja Road in Bukit Panjang to Punggol 
- Villa Francis Home for the Aged - from Mandai to Yishun 
- Ren Ci Nursing Home - from Jalan Tan Tock Seng to Bukit Batok Street 52 
- Singapore Christian Home for the Aged - from Jalan Tan Tock Seng to Sembawang Crescent.


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