Mr Cheng Wai Keung
Professor Ivy Ng
Group CEO, SingHealth
Ms Margaret Lee
CEO, SingHealth Community Hospitals
Our community partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Before I start, I would like to thank all our healthcare workers. It has been two years of very difficult work and we have another challenge ahead of us because of the Omicron wave. It is a different wave but notwithstanding that, we know that as the wave peaks, and in the coming weeks it will – it will assert pressure again on our healthcare system.
2. There are three areas that we particularly watch – one is the intensive care unit (ICU). Over the weekend, ICU bed occupancy numbers dropped from 13 to, as of last night, nine. We have a couple of Omicron patients needing ICU care but they are non-intubated. So we keep our fingers crossed that the ICU situation will remain stable.
3. The other area that we look closely at is hospitalisation itself. As of now, about 1.3 percent of Omicron cases resulted in hospitalisation, about 0.3 percent require oxygen supplementation and thankfully, usually short – two, three days. The maximum so far has been five days for one case. The numbers have been creeping up in both absolute numbers as well as percentage. It used to be 0.2 percent and over the weekend, 0.3 percent. It has slightly exceeded 0.3 percent. Every 0.1 percent occupies a lot more beds, as we all know.
4. The third area is what I and many of you are most worried about. It is the impact on our manpower and we have seen it in many other countries. It is not so much that the beds are filling up so fast, but the fact that our manpower is isolated, because of infection or as close contacts. We have adjusted our healthcare protocols, including for hospitals, in line with the science and behaviour of this virus. So isolation is down from 10 days to seven days, and between Protocols 1 and 2, the tracks are now porous. You can smoothly transit from one to another. So you may be on seven-day isolation but along the way if you are fine, after 72 hours with an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) negative test, you can come back to work.
5. All these will help. But we need to take precautions, and protect our workforce – which is why the Ministry of Health (MOH) had to make the difficult decision to suspend hospital visits again, for another four weeks. It is difficult for the patients and their families. But we are facing a peak of a wave and we have to ride through this, including some of these painful measures. As a result too, today while we are opening our community hospital, there shall be no visit to the hospital, and we will celebrate the opening right here.
6. It is my pleasure to join you here in the official opening of the SingHealth Tower and Outram Community Hospital (OCH) today.
Continuous Investment in Healthcare Infrastructure
7. The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Campus Masterplan was announced by the Prime Minister about five years ago, in 2016. Since then, the campus has been undergoing major development – to improve its facilities and enhance capacity for our growing healthcare needs.
8. There are several key developments under this Masterplan. First, the new National Cancer Centre, which is progressing well and slated to open later part of this year. Second, the Emergency Medicine Building, which will open progressively from 2024. This will be followed by the new SGH Elective Care Centre and National Dental Centre scheduled to open by 2027.
9. These developments, and OCH that we are opening today, form Phase One of the SGH Campus Master Plan development. The total development budget for Phase One is around $4 billion. In Phase Two, we will develop the new SGH Complex, together with an improved internal road network.
10. All these are part of the Government’s continuous investment in public infrastructure, for the benefit of Singaporeans. The entire Campus development is going to take another 15 years or so to complete. Beyond the investment of resources, the entire project requires very meticulous planning and execution.
11. For example, services and roads need to be carefully shifted so as not to disrupt operations in one of the busiest and oldest hospitals in Singapore. Further, SGH is now 200 years old and this year 201 years old, we are taking great efforts to preserve its heritage features and structures, such as the clock tower in Bowyer Block. The College of Medicine and Tan Teck Guan buildings, where my office is, will certainly also be preserved.
Additions to the SGH Campus
12. As part of the Masterplan development, we are adding two significant features to the Campus today.
13. First, the SingHealth Tower, which plays a central and strategic role for the SGH Campus. It houses key facilities like the Campus Logistics Hub, Central Kitchen and Sterile Supplies Unit, and administrative staff offices, all of which are also key to supporting the day-to-day operations of SGH and other institutions on the Campus.
14. These are the silent workers, always in the background. They are essential to any organisation, any Campus. However, in this age of social media and round the clock running of the publicity machinery, we can easily forget their vital contribution, until something goes wrong. I am glad the SingHealth has now provided them with a more pleasant and conducive work environment.
15. Second, the OCH. Community hospitals have always played an important role in our public healthcare system in helping patients to recover, rehabilitate and reintegrate into the community. OCH is the ninth community hospital in Singapore and one of three under SingHealth. The others are Bright Vision Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital.
16. OCH, which has a total of 545 beds, is located in the 19-storey SingHealth Tower. It is situated next to SGH, which helps ensure integrated and seamless care across the acute and community hospital on this Campus.
17. At OCH, programmes and activities are carefully designed to keep elderly patients mentally and physically engaged during their stay in the community hospital. Some initiatives that have been piloted at other community hospitals before being rolled out here, such as the Integrated Primary Care for At-Risk Elderly programme, which connects discharged patients with GPs in their neighbourhood to continue post-discharge care.
18. Another meaningful programme, which will be rolled out in OCH is the Social Prescribing Programme. The programme will equip patients at the OCH with essential life skills, such as knowing how to use a smart phone, and applications such as WhatsApp and QR code scanning. These skills will help the patients connect with their friends and loved ones, and lead a meaningful and active life after discharge. Better than before they got admitted to the hospital.
19. For patients at their end of life, there is a range of activities to cater to the needs and preferences of patients and their families. For those who cannot be cared for at home, OCH provides Inpatient Hospice Palliative Care Services. The palliative care team offers assistance to alleviate symptoms, and also attends to the patient’s psychosocial needs, enabling them to live out their final days in dignity and with comfort.
20. For those who wish to remain at home, there is also a day hospice service for palliative patients located in OCH. It is run by HCA Hospice Care, and is the first day hospice to be co-located in a community hospital.
21. We are deeply thankful that OCH opened in November 2019, just before our nation was struck by COVID-19. As a result, SingHealth could use OCH wards to augment bed capacity whenever there was a surge in COVID-19 cases.
22. OCH has also supported the operations of Bright Vision Hospital, since it was converted to a COVID-19 Treatment Facility. The great majority of COVID-19 patients recover well from home, but there is also a small group of recovered COVID-19 patients who are elderly and frail with existing medical conditions, and need rehabilitation and care at community hospitals. OCH has been receiving these patients and providing the necessary care and rehabilitation. Thank you very much for being part of this battle.
23. Congratulations on the official opening of SingHealth Tower and the OCH. I am confident that we will continue to push the boundaries of care and improve healthcare outcomes. With this, I am happy to declare the SingHealth Tower and Outram Community Hospital officially open. I wish everybody Happy Chinese New Year, a Happy Year of the Tiger, and may we rise above all our challenges. Thank you.