Saturday 27 September 2014

New National Heart Centre Singapore Opened

Bigger, better $266 million heart centre opens
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2014

SINGAPOREANS are living longer, largely because of economic growth, better education, housing and nutrition - and the country's good and efficient health-care system, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Last year, Singaporeans had an average life expectancy of 83 years - up from 75 years in 1990. This means that with every passing year, people here are living six months longer, Mr Lee noted.

But even though the health-care system in Singapore is already good, "we must continue to improve it in all aspects", he said, at the opening of the new National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) yesterday.

The new $266 million 12-storey building on the Outram campus near Singapore General Hospital is four times the size of the old one. It will be able to handle double the number of patients that it could at the nearby old building.

It has a new 24-bed short-stay unit for patients who have undergone ballooning or stenting to remove a blockage in their blood vessels. This will free up ward beds, the centre said. In addition, one floor and half of another are dedicated to research.

Specialist centres like the NHCS "are our peaks of excellence", said Mr Lee, and are there for patients with complex conditions, "so that they can receive the highest quality treatment".

The Government will be opening three more general hospitals, each with a community hospital next door, by 2022.

It is also bumping up primary care with six more polyclinics to be added by 2020.

The Community Health Assist Scheme, which provides subsidies for patients seeing general practitioners, has resulted in 170 per cent more patients turning to GPs since last year, Mr Lee said.

MediShield Life, to launch at the end of next year, will take care of affordability by giving better protection for all for life.

But Mr Lee said: "Ultimately, a good health-care system is not only about the infrastructure and the equipment, but also the competent and dedicated people who man it."

This is not just for doctors, but also nurses and allied health-care professionals.

He said: "We are upgrading their career paths, keeping their wages competitive, and developing them professionally to take on more responsibilities and provide better care to patients.

Adjunct Professor Terrance Chua, the heart centre's medical director, said his staff strength has grown by 40 per cent since 2010 to 1,200.

But he said stable patients are best treated by primary care doctors.

"In the past, 20 to 30 per cent of our patients who were sent out were going to GPs. This has increased to 70 to 80 per cent."

Revamped centre to help Singapore cope with heart disease
By Kok Xing Hui, TODAY, 26 Sep 2014

Officially opened yesterday, the new National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) — 12 storeys high and four times larger than its previous size — is expected to help the Republic cope with a projected rise in heart diseases.

And such upgrades to Singapore’s specialist centres, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, are an important part of making sure the Republic’s healthcare system — which is already of high quality — is able to keep serving people’s changing needs.

Located at Outram in a cluster of healthcare institutions that includes the Singapore General Hospital, the NHCS is aimed at treating those with complex heart conditions and also serves as a training ground and facility for research.

Mr Lee, who was guest-of-honour at the official opening, said specialist centres deliver high-quality care to patients. In the case of the NHCS, it can perform primary angioplasty procedures for emergency cases — in which a balloon is used to widen a constricted artery — in a median time span of 65 minutes — well below the international standard of 90 minutes.

These specialist centres, he added, are “peaks of excellence” in Singapore’s healthcare system.

The new NHCS building has three operating theatres, with the capacity to expand that number to six. A new short-stay unit for patients undergoing elective procedures will help the centre free up inpatient beds and reduce the size of bills that patients face when they leave, said Adjunct Professor Terrance Chua, its medical director.

Fully-equipped training facilities also mean medical staff and allied healthcare workers would be able to attend training sessions right where they work. Professor Chua said one-and-a-half floors of the centre would be devoted to research with the National Heart Research Institute Singapore.

“Embedding our clinicians, researchers and educators together in a single building will increase opportunities for the exchange of ideas between clinicians and researchers, inspire our students and trainees to learn more about the entire spectrum of cardiac care, and make it easier for us to engage our patients in research,” he said.

But while the centre focuses on heart diseases, Prof Chua said its services are not meant for every heart patient. “Many patients can be evaluated by their primary care physician and those who have signs of more complex disease, who have evidence of coronary disease, (those) will be referred to us,” he said.

Yesterday, Mr Lee also outlined other measures the Government has put in place to prepare for an ageing population and improve access to primary care. He reiterated how new polyclinics, hospitals and nursing homes are being built, while existing ones are being upgraded.

The Government hopes to add another 4,000 hospital beds over the next few years. It also plans to increase the number of nursing home beds to 17,000 by 2020.

The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), which subsidises the low-income and visits by the pioneer generation to their general practitioners and dentists, now covers more people as well, said Mr Lee.

The qualifying age of 40 years old for CHAS was removed this year to allow young, low-income Singaporeans qualify for the scheme.

About 313,000 Singaporeans were covered under CHAS as of September last year. That figure has shot up to about 850,000 as of last month.

The number of private general practitioners and dental clinics participating in CHAS has also increased by 24 per cent.

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