Friday, 25 July 2014

NTUC to open its first nursing home in Jurong West

NTUC to offer elderly affordable nursing care
First home will open in Jurong next year and look after 290 people
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 24 Jul 2014

THE National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) yesterday announced plans to open its first nursing home catering to needy elderly people.

To be located at the junction of Jurong West Street 93 and Street 92, the home is expected to open in the third quarter of 2015 and accommodate about 290 people.

It will also include a senior care centre at the site that can cater to 60 more seniors.

NTUC Enterprise chairman Lim Boon Heng said NTUC Health, which beat at least six other bidders to the Ministry of Health (MOH) tender, will be "well poised" to provide holistic care for the elderly by drawing on its experience and current pool of resources.

These include doctors, pharmacists and support staff already working in its existing clinics, and day-care and senior-activity centres.

There are even plans to invest in operating an additional five nursing homes in the next three to five years, Mr Lim noted, adding that the home was a key objective when NTUC first started its elder-care services 17 years ago.

He said such a move did not happen earlier because the Government had previously limited the number of nursing homes and as NTUC did not have the resources to buy land.

The new home is classed under the Build-Own-Lease model first mooted by the MOH in 2012.

Under this scheme, the MOH bears the cost of building the facilities but tenders out the operating rights to service providers to keep costs low for patients.

NTUC Enterprise group chief executive officer Tan Suee Chieh noted that service prices are still being studied to make running the home cost-effective.

"The important thing for us is that it must be sustainable," he said. "Even if it's not, it must be within a (price) corridor we can afford. Our ambition is to help the lower-income."

Tender documents revealed that bidders were incentivised to charge patients competitive fees.

As a guide, the MOH said its subsidies are based on costs ranging from $24 a day for someone who needs minimum assistance, to $63 a day for a highly dependent patient, such as one who may have dementia and need constant supervision.

The home requires at least 80 per cent of the beds to be reserved for subsidised patients, and will need about 100 staff, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists, to run.

The lease will run for three years, with an option to extend to a maximum of nine years.

Manpower is one of the challenges the nursing home faces given the tight labour market, said Mr Lim, adding: "We can draw some staff from existing operations, (but) we will also need to tap the market for qualified nurses."

As for how NTUC is prepared to counter potential backlash from residents who might object to a nursing home within their estate, Mr Lim replied: "We believe that if we engage residents early enough, and explain to them the needs and how they themselves will benefit, then I think the reactions will be favourable."

Mr M. Subramaniam, chief executive of senior citizen care provider Sasco which put in a losing bid, said: "It's unfortunate for us, but it will be a good experience for NTUC.

"In future, we might even be able to learn something from them."

NTUC set to 'emerge as big player' in care for elderly
Some operators worry about competition in labour market
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2014

NTUC'S entry into the nursing home sector will likely see it emerge as a "prominent player" because of its reputation and size, say experts.

Despite this, some nursing home operators do not see the National Trades Union Congress as a potential competition.

"There are a lot of patients waiting for beds," said Ms Christina Loh, nursing director of Man Fut Tong Nursing Home. "Maybe when (NTUC's home) is open, it will shorten the waiting time."

On Wednesday, NTUC announced that its first nursing home will open in Jurong West next year.

In addition, it declared that it was "prepared to invest" in another five homes in the next three to five years.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the latest move by NTUC into the nursing home sector reflects the rising interest of service providers.

"This is a good sign and we welcome more players to enter the sector to ramp up services for our ageing population," said a ministry spokesman yesterday.

Senior economics lecturer Tan Khay Boon at SIM Global Education feels that as a big player, NTUC can "help uphold standards in operating nursing homes, and be a benchmark for other nursing home operators". NTUC was unlikely to be able to lead the price competition, he added, because "the pie is big enough to accommodate more suppliers".

Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) chairman Thomas Tan welcomed the news, even though CWS runs three nursing homes. "Everyone who has the resources should do good work," he said.

In January, there were about 10,000 nursing home beds available. MOH aims to raise this to 15,600 by 2020.

There are now 69 nursing homes here. If all six of NTUC's planned homes become a reality, they could account for about a third of the shortfall in beds. But the major sticking point is likely to be manpower, as NTUC will have to hire aggressively to outfit its new nursing home.

"Nursing care is a labour-intensive service, and it is not easy to get local people in allied health-care services," said Dr Tan of SIM Global Education.

NTUC Enterprise chairman Lim Boon Heng admitted that the industry's manpower shortage was something that the new home would have to tackle.

"For nursing staff, of course, we have to recruit qualified nurses. This will be a challenge," said Mr Lim. "For the support staff, we think that there will be those who are not working today who can be recruited and trained for the purpose."

He added that NTUC could draw on existing manpower from its other arms for the new home. For instance, many of the staff on its elderly home-care programme are part-timers trained in basic care techniques who could be redeployed as support staff to the new nursing home.

But some nursing home operators are still concerned that NTUC's arrival will mean more competition in the labour market.

"If they are going to employ more people and pay better, people will prefer to be working there," said Mr C.V. Nathan, chairman of the Singapore Amalgamated Services Cooperative Organisation, which operates a senior citizens' home with about 100 beds.

However, Mr Nathan said the home has not experienced a high staff turnover despite the tight labour market.

Other nursing home operators simply see the changes as a "necessary evil".

"If there are more homes needed, more manpower will be needed," said Mr Thomas Tan of CWS, which operates nursing homes in Yishun, Jurong and Thomson.

"If it's not NTUC, it will be someone else. The greater tragedy is if people need homes, but there are none available."

* NTUC Launches First Nursing Home in Jurong West

NTUC making more inroads into eldercare
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 26 May 2016

The labour movement is stepping on the gas to make inroads into the eldercare market as the population ages.

Yesterday, NTUC Health launched its first nursing home in Jurong West. The nine-storey home offers nursing care to about 200 seniors who use wheelchairs or have dementia. It also houses a care centre for more mobile old folk.

At the launch, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) also revealed plans for more elder-friendly supermarkets and highlighted a new insurance policy that covers seniors for cancer.

These moves are part of its push to offer affordable services for working people, said its secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

"It is a continuation of what NTUC wants to provide for our working people to ameliorate the cost pressures that they face in their daily living," he said. "In the past, it was NTUC FairPrice for groceries, then NTUC Income for basic insurance. So going forward, we know that in 10 to 15 years' time, the need will be in care services."

By 2030, he added, almost one in three in the population will need some form of eldercare services.

"For NTUC to provide those services in 15 years' time, we must get our feet wet. We must start to experiment, understand the business model and recruit the people necessary to make sure we have those options available for ourselves by the year 2030," he said.

NTUC announced its entry into the nursing-home sector in 2014 and said then that it was prepared to invest in another five homes in the next three to five years.

It will run two other homes in Geylang East and Chai Chee that will be ready by next year.

A social enterprise, NTUC Health wants to pioneer new concepts to be a catalyst for social change. The Jurong facility, for instance, is the first nursing home in Singapore that has an anti-gravity treadmill.

Based on space technology to simulate weightlessness while exercising, the treadmill enables the elderly to walk without experiencing too much impact on their joints and muscles.

More elder-friendly products on the way
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 26 May 2016

Elderly wheelchair-users often rely on family members for grocery shopping, especially if it involves heavy loads.

But now, senior citizens using wheelchairs can push trolleys - customised ones that can be attached to the wheelchairs - to pick up and pay for items in supermarkets if they want to.

Such customised trolleys are among several features that elder- and disabled-friendly NTUC FairPrice supermarkets will have when the chain opens four more of such stores in the west and central parts of Singapore this year.

Two such supermarkets were set up in Bukit Merah Central and Lengkok Bahru last year.

Besides the wheelchair-friendly trolleys, there are call buttons at the supermarket entrance and along the rows of shelves, should help be needed. In addition, magnifying glasses are placed among the shelves so that customers can use them to read product labels. Shelves are fitted at a lower height so that wheelchair-users or seniors can reach for items more easily.

Speaking at the launch of a new nursing home in Jurong, NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said yesterday that, apart from such elder-friendly facilities, NTUC is also looking into ensuring adequate financial planning and protection for the elderly.

NTUC Income launched the Silver Protect in March, an insurance policy that people between 50 and 74 years old can buy. The policy covers early and advanced-stage cancer, among other things, up to the age of 84.

Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said such products will give the elderly more affordable insurance options.

A 55-year-old man, for instance, will pay a premium of about $1,000 every year for a sum assured of $100,000.

Currently, Income also offers a personal accident insurance plan, called SilverCare, for older people. However, it said Silver Protect is the only cancer-focused product that accepts policyholders up to the age of 74.

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