Friday 22 March 2013

New hospital for infectious diseases to open by 2018; Remembering SARS: 10 Years On

It will be used to contain any SARS-like outbreak and located near TTSH
By Melissa Pang, The Straits Times, 21 Mar 2013

A NEW infectious disease hospital will be open in Singapore by 2018 and act as a containment facility in the event of an outbreak similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The centre will be located just across from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in Novena and have an estimated 300 beds.

TTSH chief executive Philip Choo revealed the development yesterday on the sidelines of an event to mark 10 years since the deadly SARS virus struck.

The new hospital will contain two wards of intensive care units, and have its own support systems such as laboratories, X-ray rooms and operating theatres.

Professor Choo said the purpose of the "self-contained" centre is that in the event of an outbreak, treatment of infected patients can be confined to a single place without having to "take down one hospital" - as it did to TTSH, the designated SARS hospital during the 2003 outbreak.

"This is a very big general hospital. If you take one hospital off, then it actually creates a lot of stress on the other systems."

More details will be revealed later this year. Once it is built, the existing Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) will move into it.

Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, chairman of the National University Health System board, said it will be a "very valuable facility" to have in the event of an outbreak like SARS.

Speaking at another event at National University Hospital (NUH) yesterday, he said: "The new facility is very close to TTSH so it could actually draw on some of the supporting specialities and expertise from the hospital."

Prof Tan, who was director of medical services during the SARS outbreak, had recommended making TTSH the only one to admit infected patients.

The existing CDC has two sites - the more commonly known cluster of pre-war buildings in Moulmein Road, and a building near TTSH which was converted from the old Ren Ci Community Hospital in 2003 after the outbreak. Then, it was not feasible to house SARS patients at the Moulmein Road site due to its size and lack of facilities for the type of intensive care needed, said Prof Tan.

Yesterday, TTSH and NUH held events to remember SARS. At NUH, about 250 health-care workers recited pledges to remain committed to work in times of crisis.

On March 1, 2003, a Singaporean woman was admitted to TTSH for a mysterious and severe form of pneumonia. By March 15, the World Health Organisation had named the disease SARS.

A total of 8,096 cases were reported globally between November 2002 and July 2003. There were 238 infections and 23 deaths here.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was guest of honour at the TTSH event, said the health- care system here has learnt many lessons from SARS. There were so few isolation rooms 10 years ago that makeshift cabin wards had to be built, but there are now almost 400 across all major acute public hospitals. There are also 48 infectious disease physicians, triple the number of a decade ago.

While Singapore has the "capacity and capability" to face new infectious diseases, he urged Singaporeans to "remain vigilant".

He also paid tribute to the health-care workers who "worked selflessly to care for SARS patients". Five health-care workers died in the battle against SARS.

"We mourned as a nation when some of these heroes succumbed to the infection so that patients they cared for could live on and recover."

No comments:

Post a Comment