Monday, July 5, 2010

Govt help to find new site 'if hospital must move'

DPM says Govt has no plans yet for Kwong Wai Shiu land; lease ends in 2015

KWONG Wai Shiu Hospital will not be left in the lurch, even though the authorities are undecided about plans for the land it sits on when the lease expires in 2015.

The medical facility is Singapore's longest-serving charity hospital, and its officials hope they can stay put at its premises in Serangoon Road.

Yesterday, it celebrated its centennial year with free health screenings for the public and a food and games carnival, among other events.

A 92-year-old donor even presented $100,000 to the hospital yesterday to mark the occasion.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said on the sidelines of the celebrations that the Government has no plans to use the land for the next five years.

'But after five years, the Ministry of National Development may have different plans. So it is only then that we can decide the hospital's future,' said DPM Wong in Mandarin.

But Mr Wong, who is also the Minister for Home Affairs, said the Government will look out for the hospital, if it cannot remain at its current address in the future.

'Even if the hospital cannot remain here, the Government recognises and supports all community hospitals. So if one day, it cannot be here, the Government will continue to help it find a new place and give it other forms of assistance,' he added.

Mr Wong, who has been the hospital's patron for the past four years, noted that it has done a lot of good work for the community in the past 100 years.

It was founded in 1910 by a group of Cantonese merchants who wanted to provide free medical care for Cantonese immigrants from China.

A 2.5ha plot of land, with three colonial buildings, was parcelled off from Tan Tock Seng Hospital and given to Kwong Wai Shiu for 99 years.

The merchants also struck a deal with the British colonial authorities in the 99-year lease for the hospital to pay just $1 every year in rent.

That lease expired in February this year and the land was handed over to the Singapore Government, which extended it to 2015.

The hospital's annual rental bill is now $1.7million.

Its annual overall operating cost of about $12million has so far been met mainly through public donations and patient fees.

This amount is projected to hit $16million this year, said chief operating officer Ling Bee Sian.

In September last year, the Ministry of Health agreed to increase its subsidy to Kwong Wai Shiu.

Madam Ling said that discussions on the subsidy - such as the amount and coverage - are still being finalised.

Currently, Kwong Wai Shiu runs a 50-bed community hospital and 350-bed nursing home.

It also has a rehabilitation and traditional Chinese medicine centre, as well as an outpatient clinic.

Over the years the hospital has adapted itself to meet the needs of the community, and it plans to stay relevant by adding another 200 beds to its community hospital and another 50 beds to its nursing home, said Mr Patrick Lee, vice-chairman of the hospital's management committee.

He added that there are plans to start a home-care service, including training for caregivers to take care of their loved ones better.

Source: Straits Times, 5 Jul 2010

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