Overcrowding at TTSH: Answer lies in quality and quantity

I disagree with what Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) CEO Dr. Eugene Fedelis Soh commented about how "having more room for beds is not the solution". He suggested instead for the hospital to re-look its quality framework.

His remark does not make sense at all.

The issue of overcrowding in TTSH is real. It has nothing to do with quality. It's the matter of quantity...or lack of it.

Even Health Minister Mr. Khaw Boon Wan admitted the issue as it is & wisely apologised for the overcrowding situation in his blog. Check out his well-said post in "Healthcare 2010: Expanding Capacity, Raising Capabilities" dated 21 Dec 2009.

Part of the 6th paragraph:
I thank the patients too for their patience and understanding. It is no fun waiting for a bed, in a crowded room or in a corridor; I am truly sorry.

So please just admit it, Dr. Soh. If it's merely a quality issue, why over the last three years, 145 beds had been added to TTSH?!

It's much more encouraging to read how a very important person like the Health Minister is willing to recognize the situation, empathize with the patient & apologize for the inconvenience. By the way, he even mentioned about the upcoming KTPH (it stands for Khoo Teck Puat Hospital--and guess what, there's even a Wikipedia article about it: here) which is supposed to be 'the final solution' to the overcrowding problem faced by TTSH.

Occupany in public hospitals may be on the rise, but Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) chief executive officer Dr Eugene Fedelis Soh says that in order to serve its patients, "having more room for beds is not the solution".

What needs to be done, he said, is for the hospital to re-look its quality framework.

On top of this, staff must realise that the needs of the patients come first and foremost.

"I think for the longest time we have not looked at quality in isolation," Dr Soh told MediaCorp.

"We have been making changes, telling our staff they are to look at the value they bring to our patients," he added.

Nonetheless, the 165-year-old hospital recently came under fire from some patients for the lack of beds.

Dr Soh said the hospital is learning from its mistakes and doing its best "to make sure that patients' experiences are part of the healing process".

Over the last three years, TTSH said it had added 145 beds. It also operates 80 beds in collaboration with RenCi Hospital, he added.

Last month, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan apologised for the overcrowding situation in his blog.

Several times a week, TTSH has had to divert civil defence ambulances to other hospitals.

"It is no fun waiting for a bed, in a crowded room or in a corridor; I am truly sorry," wrote the minister.

Despite this, some patients seemed pleased with the work put in by TTSH. The hospital pulled up last year's score to 67.2 out of a 100 - up 0.21 points from 2008 in the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore.

The findings, released on Monday by the Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University, ranks sectors based on customer expectations, perceived overall quality and perceived value.

Said Dr Soh: "We are happy that improvements have been made despite the challenges in the last year, especially during the H1N1 period… credit for this must go to our staff as well."

Improving patient experience in the last year was an uphill challenge said Dr Soh, especially when TTSH is one of the busiest restructured hospitals in Singapore.

This situation has been made even more complicated by the manpower crunch faced by the healthcare industry.

The Ministry of Health has taken steps to beef up manpower, with more than 1,200 people enrolled in nursing courses at the polytechnics.

Dr Soh said the challenge for TTSH was to ensure that its nursing recruits from China and the Philippines were made aware that they should be adding value and care for the patients.

What's heartening is that TTSH caregivers have been going the extra mile, he added.

For example, nurses at the hospital have been following up on recently discharged patients.

Furthermore, caregivers have also been working with the Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) to ensure that patients' needs are met even if they choose to recuperate at home.

These steps have impressed Mrs Chan Foong Chueen, 49.

She said: "My mother has been hospitalized here for the sixth time since 2008… Even though she was warded at different wards each time, the care she received was always of a consistently high standard."

"The nurses went beyond being healthcare professionals who provided medical care for my mother, as they were good listeners who gave me good advice when I encountered difficulties in communicating with the maid my siblings hired to look after my mother".

From Channel NewsAsia, "Overcrowding at TTSH: Answer lies in quality, not quantity".

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