Thousands more elderly patients to benefit from out-of-hospital care

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Thousands more elderly patients will soon benefit from out-of-hospital care thanks to the expansion of two programmes.

A scheme that provides elderly people with post-discharge care to reduce their chances of being hospitalised again will be scaled up from the current base of 3,000 patients to 5,000 by the end of the year.

Another initiative, under which trained volunteers in 18 neighbourhoods keep an eye on elderly residents living near them, will be expanded to another 30 districts.

This move follows the integration of the SingHealth and Eastern Health Alliance healthcare clusters, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced yesterday.

The merger of SingHealth and Eastern Health Alliance is part of a larger regrouping of Singapore's six regional health systems into three integrated clusters that is due to be completed early this year.

Speaking at the SingHealth Integrated Care Symposium yesterday, Dr Khor noted that the two schemes to be expanded have seen positive results.

Post-discharge care programme Communities of Care has helped 3,000 elderly residents in Chinatown, Tiong Bahru, Bukit Merah, Katong and Telok Blangah stay out of hospital since its launch last April.

Patients with complex medical conditions requiring close monitoring are identified by a care team at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and receive home visits and calls from them.

The team also works with social organisations such as NTUC Health, Tsao Foundation and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities to devise a care plan for each patient, which can include support services such as financial assistance.

"If the expansion works, we are going to extend Communities of Care to CGH (Changi General Hospital) and Sengkang General Hospital by next year," said Associate Professor Lee Kheng Hock, director of the Office of Integrated Care at SGH.

The other programme, Neighbours for Active Living, has halved the average number of days of hospitalisation for each patient - from 2.2 to one over a six-month period and reduced the duration of hospital stays from seven to four days for residents in the eastern part of Singapore, according to Dr Eugene Shum, chief corporate development officer at CGH.

Under the programme, volunteers check on elderly residents and alert the hospital if they spot any health issues.

The programme was started by the Eastern Health Alliance and South East Community Development Council.