Speech by Minister for Health, Mr Gan Kim Yong, at the Healthcare Infrastructure Technology & Engineering Conference 2013 (HI.TEC 2013), 30 October 2013, 8.30am, at Marina Mandarin Singapore

1.            Good morning and thank you for joining me this morning at the Healthcare Infrastructure Technology and Engineering Conference (HI.TEC) organised by MOH Holdings.

2.            The HI.TEC conference is into its second year, and I am heartened to see such a good turnout of homegrown and overseas healthcare leaders and experts coming together to share best practices, exchange ideas and discuss innovative infrastructural solutions. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone.

Singapore’s Healthcare Landscape – Challenges

3.            Singapore’s population is getting older, our disease patterns are shifting and demand for healthcare services is set to increase. We will have to plan in advance to ensure sufficient healthcare capacity, while maximising land-use, given the scarcity of land in Singapore.

Ramping Up Healthcare Infrastructure

4.            Under our Healthcare 2020 Masterplan, we will be adding about 4,100 hospital beds by 2020, including about 1,900 community hospital beds – more than triple what we have today.

5.            The ageing population will bring about a greater need to strengthen care in both the intermediate and long-term care and primary care sectors. With this in mind, we are also accelerating the development of nursing homes. This year alone, we have completed four new nursing homes – namely, Bright Hill Evergreen Home at Punggol, the Singapore Christian Home at Sembawang, Villa Francis Nursing Home at Yishun, and St Andrews Nursing Home at Buangkok. We plan to increase our nursing home bed capacity from 9,000 in 2011 to 15,600 by 2020.

6.            Polyclinics play an important role in our primary care sector, and we will be building more of these to meet the growing primary care needs of our population. By 2017, we will have two new polyclinics in Punggol and Jurong West, with another four by 2020.

Building for the Future

7.            I have just outlined our plans for new infrastructural facilities in the medium term. But, with new facilities coming on line, our challenge is to continually innovate – whether in the area of services, design, or in the construction process – so that we can build better, build faster, and build smarter. We are looking for innovations in three key areas.

8.            First, we want our facilities to better support integrated care for patients. Where practicable, facilities should be integrated with each other and with services in the community, so that patients can enjoy a more seamless care experience. For instance, we are integrating acute and community hospitals in our new developments to better cater to the needs of patients. These include the integrated Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital development which will be ready in 2014/ 2015. The new Yishun Community Hospital and Outram Community Hospital will also be respectively co-located with the existing Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Singapore General Hospital. This is also the case for the new Sengkang General Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital which will all be ready by 2020.

9.            We are building new nursing homes within or close to residential areas. This would provide more convenience to patient’s family and friends, as well as provide more opportunities for the surrounding community to support the care of the elderly and frail. As compared to the past, the design of the new nursing homes has evolved to blend better into the surrounding community and to help increase public acceptance of aged care developments.

10.         During my visit to Japan two months ago, we observed that many eldercare facilities were well-integrated with their surrounding community. Some nursing homes, for example, had co-located day services with residential services so that seniors around the community could also use the facility. This is something that we are also conscious of when planning our upcoming healthcare facilities, and a key reason why we have deliberately situated our new nursing homes and Senior Care Centres within neighborhoods across the island.

11.         Secondly, as far as possible, we want to build our facilities so that they are ready for the future. Our buildings need to be adaptable in the long-term to meet changing healthcare requirements. A good example of this is the ongoing construction of an integrated building between Changi General Hospital and St Andrews Community Hospital. This new 180-bed facility – which will be completed next year – is specifically designed such that the beds can be adapted for use as either acute or community hospital beds, depending on future requirements.

12.         Thirdly, we need faster, smarter and more cost-effective ways to build healthcare facilities. With the national drive to improve productivity in the construction industry, we want engineering and architectural solutions that will enable us to improve construction processes, sustainability and safety, and to reduce long-term life cycle costs. In the interest of financial prudence, our buildings should also be relatively easy and cost-efficient to maintain and upkeep.

13.         Countries have carried out work and studies to make the building process less disruptive and more efficient and to cut costs through innovations in the construction approach and technology. These include the increased use of automation, flexible construction techniques, new technologies as well as innovative design approaches. Research programmes such as Slimbouwen[1] (pronounced Slim-Bow-Wern) to study smart and efficient buildings as well as new technologies such as the Building Information Model (BIM)[2] which allows users to better visualise the new building – are useful. These technologies help to enhance planning, reduce abortive works, improve resource utilisation, and reduce downstream upkeep costs.

14.         Taken together, these efforts will help to reduce cost and extend the life-cycle and adaptability of our healthcare infrastructure. Ultimately, this will help ensure that Singapore’s healthcare remains accessible and affordable.

Concluding Remarks

15.         Good healthcare is the sum of different components working together. Infrastructure is the basic building block. While it is hardware, it needs to be developed with people at the centre – functional to meet the needs of our citizens as we age, efficient for our hardworking healthcare workers, safe and conducive for all who use the facilities, and cost-effective to build and to run for many years to come.

16.         It is thus appropriate that the theme of this year’s HI.TEC conference is “Benchmarking for Excellence and Value”. I note that the various invited speakers will be covering important topics such as sustainable living and healing environment, innovative healthcare infrastructure development, benchmarking for healthcare infrastructure improvement, and trends in healthcare delivery. I hope that the discussions this conference generates will provide a catalyst for new and innovative ideas as well as solutions on how we can better develop capacity to meet future healthcare needs.

17.         I wish everyone a productive conference for the next two days.

Thank you.       



 

[1] Slimbouwen (which is Dutch for “smart building”) is a research programme under Enidhoven University, and based on the separation of services from the building structural parts in order to reduce the amount of overlap, degree of interdependence and complex coordination, in order to simplify and create a more efficient building.

[2] BIM is an advanced design tool - a virtual modelling software - with capability to embed information (technical specifications) of the building components and the materials used. BIM model can be rotated for visual appreciation, cut-out sections and layers to see details, coordination of services for clash detection and obstruction, and asset model insertion and asset data tagging.

 

 

 

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