Wednesday 26 September 2012

Ministry of Health to proceed with nursing home in Bishan

It found 5 suggested alternative sites unfeasible but will tweak design
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2012

THE Ministry of Health (MOH) will go ahead to build a nursing home in Bishan Street 13, after taking four months to study alternative sites suggested by residents.

It has also tweaked the design of the home in response to their feedback, and will continue to engage residents while it develops the proposed design.

Construction of the 260-bed Lions Home for the Elders is expected to begin early next year and be completed by end-2014.

Residents objected when they were told of the planned development in May.

Yesterday, MOH said it has been working with the MP, grassroots leaders and residents since then to address their concerns.

As initially planned, the home will be built in a field bounded by blocks 175, 181, 182 and 186. But MOH, along with the Housing Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority, had gone back to study each of the five alternative sites suggested by residents in May.

It found that all were either in use or had been designated for future development.

But MOH said it has heard and paid heed to residents' worries that the home will block views, hamper ventilation and cause traffic and noise problems.

Accordingly, the building will be capped at six storeys instead of eight as intended, and will contain design features to shield the wards from direct view. Lush greenery will be included on the rooftop and around the home, while MOH will ensure there is ample carpark space.

MOH and Bishan East grassroots organisations have been explaining the decision to residents since last week. Over the weekend, each household received a letter from Bishan East Citizens Consultative Committee, along with a detailed explanation from MOH on why the alternative sites could not be used. Grassroots leaders have also knocked on doors to explain these measures to residents.

Mr Wong Kan Seng, the MP for the area, said that while he can "fully understand" the sentiments of those who disapprove of the nursing home site, he has also heard from supportive residents.

Those interviewed yesterday greeted the final decision with resignation. While some, like retiree Tan Boon Boon, 72, saw the benefits of having a nursing home at their doorstep, others among the 15 interviewed were not satisfied with the tweaks to the design.

But teacher Christina Tan, 43, saw the episode as the early stage of a Government learning how to consult. "We are in a different era now. The Government is learning how to listen and the people are learning how to voice out."

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