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Bigger, better $266 million heart centre opens

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Salma Khalik on 26 Sep 2014

The Straits Times

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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."

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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