At Ren Ci Hospital's new nursing home in Ang Mo Kio, residents have the feeling of living alongside neighbours in Housing Board flats.
They stay in clusters called "households" with a common corridor, and have communal dining areas, shared sofas for watching television, and even coffee corners with old-school cutlery and coffee tins.
One communal area serves as a bird-singing corner - cages with artificial birds hang from the ceiling with recordings of bird songs.
The new facility, which was officially launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, is a purpose-built nursing home with 472 beds, designed to provide greater privacy and allow the residents more autonomy and dignity in their daily living. The opening marks Ren Ci Hospital's 25th anniversary.
In his speech, PM Lee noted that Singapore's healthcare delivery framework is unique, with the Government providing primary and in-patient care, while community care partners provide step-down care.
The Government also helps these partners build, fund and operate healthcare and step-down care facilities so they can bring services closer to the community.
This collaborative system keeps healthcare costs affordable, he said.
"Our community care partners like Ren Ci are very important in providing step-down care. They enable Singaporeans to be cared for in familiar surroundings near their homes and in the company of people they know and love," PM Lee added.
"This makes care services more accessible, gives comfort to patients and caregivers, who have more psychological and community support and can thereby avoid the overuse of expensive facilities or hospitalisation in tertiary hospitals."
He added that the collaborative system is especially important as more Singaporeans age and will need such step-down care services.
"We are happy with this model, which is why, over the last decade, we have increased our total spending in primary care and intermediate or long-term care sectors by nearly four times," he said.
The new nursing home is currently 90 per cent occupied. The cost of staying there depends on the amount of subsidies a resident receives, based on household means-testing.
PM Lee also witnessed an exchange between the Ren Ci Learning Academy and the Centre for Allied Health and Pharmacy Excellence at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The academy aims to boost the community's capabilities to better care for the elderly.
The home is also trying out a new shower system where patients in wheelchairs can shower on their own, removing the need for extensive manual bathing by staff.
The facility also has a Short Stay Unit that provides care of up to six months for residents to recuperate before they return home. It caters to seniors who need a longer period of rehabilitation after being discharged from acute hospitals, to slowly get back into their daily routines and activities. Social workers will also arrange for post-care services such as meals-on-wheels and medical escort services.
Resident Kevin Tan, 52, who used to be a make-up artist, is staying at the Short Stay Unit. He has limited mobility because of a spinal injury after a fall. "It provides me with a safe environment to practise independent living," he said.
With the help of a medical social worker, arrangements have been made for him to move to a one-room rental flat. "I am grateful for their support," he added.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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