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Goodbye to hospital corridor beds

  Tuesday, 31 l 08 l 2010 Source: The Straits Times   
By: Salma Khalik

Pressure on TTSH has eased with KTPH open

corridor bedsNO PATIENT in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has had to sleep in a bed along the corridor this month.

The hospital also stopped diverting ambulances to other hospitals, unlike earlier in the year, when this was happening several times a week.

And last week, the longest a new patient waited to be given a bed was five hours, with most being accommodated in under two hours.
The pressure on TTSH has eased considerably since Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in Yishun opened and started accepting all ambulance cases within its catchment area from the start of this month.

TTSH’s chief executive officer Lim Suet Wun said: “We’re busy, but no longer bursting.”

KTPH has also eased some of the load of other public hospitals, said a Ministry of Health (MOH) spokesman.

However, little of this effect has been felt at the 800-bed Changi General Hospital (CGH), which still shoulders the demand for beds and emergency care in eastern Singapore, where there is no other public hospital.

The MOH spokesman added, however, that it was still too soon after KTPH’s coming onstream to assess its impact on CGH, and that the ministry would monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, TTSH has been able to increase the number of non-emergency operations this month by about 10 per cent.

These had to be postponed in the past year at TTSH and other public hospitals, when they found themselves unable to spare beds for such patients.

TTSH’s occupancy rate still hovers in the mid-80s and can hit 90 per cent on Mondays, one of the busiest days, noted Dr Lim.

The roughly 30 beds placed along its corridors, no longer needed, have been removed, and the curtains around them mothballed.

But the electrical and gas outlets installed in the corridor walls will stay, in case a disaster strikes and the extra beds are needed again, he said.

Situated in central Singapore, the 1,200-bed TTSH used to be the nearest hospital for residents in the north and central parts of the island. This made its emergency department one of the country’s busiest.

Dr Lim said that with KTPH now operational, TTSH will be able to concentrate on improving its services, including providing better breast cancer treatment, performing more vascular surgery for older people or diabetics suffering from blocked blood vessels, and practising geriatric medicine and rehabilitation.

The MOH spokesman noted that, aside from TTSH, the other hospitals had a “manageable” occupancy rate of between 81 per cent and 85 per cent in the first week of August.

This compares to an average occupancy rate, taken at midnight, in the mid-80s during the crunch on beds a couple of months back.

Anything over 80 per cent is generally considered tight for hospitals, since the count includes isolation and intensive-care beds – some of which must always be available in case of emergencies.

There is bed space here, just that it is not equally distributed.

KTPH has opened only 480 of its 550 beds. Its occupancy rate is hovering in the mid-70s, but is climbing, said its head, Mr Liak Teng Lit.

Meanwhile, more than half the beds at Alexandra Hospital (AH) are empty, with some patients having moved with their specialists to KTPH.

The Yishun hospital is being run by the team that used to run AH.

AH, which will continue operating until Jurong General Hospital (JGH) opens in four years, is now being run by a new team which will form the core of the yet-to-be-built JGH.

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