TO meet the growing healthcare needs of the population, the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus will undergo a major redevelopment in the next 20 years that will triple the space for patient care and develop stronger capabilities by integrating medical care, research and education.
Looking back at SGH's beginnings at the launch of the masterplan on Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the present campus layout reflects the major overhaul that was completed 35 years ago.
To make it more convenient for patients, visitors and staff, the entire hospital will be relocated to the area along Outram Road and Eu Tong Sen Street, which will bring the hospital nearer the Outram Park MRT station.
"We will move the high-patient-volume services closer to the MRT station, we'll link up the hospital with the station and you can get off the MRT and take an easy walk to the place of care," said Mr Lee, who likened the redevelopment of the 43-ha campus to a "musical chairs exercise", one in which buildings and roads will be shifted while keeping the busy hospital running.
The relocation of SGH begins with the move by the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department to a new building along Eu Tong Sen Street. This will raise the capacity of one of the hospital's busiest departments, he said.
Under the masterplan, the various care facilities will be linked to make it safer and easier to get to the various clinics and wards, Mr Lee said. Roads will be redesigned so give ambulances and patients faster access to the A&E department.
A new SGH Elective Care Centre, which will add more operating theatres, specialist outpatient clinics and acute beds, will also be built, and it will house the National Dental Centre.
Mr Lee noted that capacity for patient care will be increased, particularly in targeted areas such as cancer. To this end, a new National Cancer Centre - at more than 20 storeys, the tallest building on the campus - will be built.
Giving the example of a patient with diabetes, he said: "So, rather than have the patient go to many different places, we'll bring all the specialties together and design the buildings and operations of the hospitals to be patient-centric, and take care of the patient in one place as far as possible."
In terms of growing stronger capabilities, the redeveloped campus will feature a new Research Park; this will build on the existing strengths of SingHealth and Duke-NUS Medical School through collaboration with industry partners.
"Altogether, this campus will meet 40 per cent of our healthcare education needs in Singapore, with more teaching and training facilities, and it'll focus on integrated training - training doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and hospital staff, together," he said.
The changes represent the future of healthcare in Singapore - one that combines the best in facilities and technology, puts the patient first, and is integrated with the larger network of community hospitals, primary and home care, he said.
Still, he added, it is important to preserve or re-purpose some of the old buildings, such as the Bowyer block with its clock tower and the Mistri wing, which is home to the new Diabetes and Metabolism Centre, to remind Singaporeans of their heritage.
The campus makeover had started with the Duke-NUS Medical School, which was opened in 2009. This was followed by the Acadaemia in 2013 and the National Heart Centre in 2014; the 550-bed Outram Community Hospital, slated to open in 2020, will be next.
Prof Ivy Ng, group chief executive of SingHealth, said: "This campus now handles more than one third of the country's healthcare needs. Last year alone, we cared for more than 90,000 inpatients, handled 1.3 million specialist outpatient clinic attendances and more than 135,000 A&E attendances on this campus."
With the population ageing rapidly, pressure on Singapore's healthcare institutions will rise. The overhaul was developed in consultation with the Health Ministry, factoring in current and anticipated needs, she said, adding that SingHealth has started to develop two new models of care - the SingHealth Duke-NUS Disease Centres and the Regional Health System - so as to provide seamless care.