Alexandra Hospital operates a 24-hour acute care clinic that is equipped to handle most emergencies, but unlike other public hospitals in the country that are struggling to cope with the overwhelming demand for emergency services, Alexandra faces a low patient load.

"A lot of people are not aware that Alexandra Hospital is still functioning," said Dr Annitha Annathurai, who heads the emergency medicine department in Alexandra. The hospital had closed for renovations in June 2015 but resumed operations in phases from August the same year, yet few are aware that the hospital is open for business, she explained.

"Actually, there's still an important facility here."

Shorter wait times due to low patient load

The acute care clinic at Alexandra Hospital is equipped to handle patients who require emergency treatment, such as cuts, fractures as well as infections. As the hospital does not receive Singapore Civil Defence Force emergency ambulances, patients with severe medical conditions such as heart attacks, as well as patients in need of specialised care will not be admitted in Alexandra.

"Usually, we assess the situation, stabilise the patient, and then transfer them to another hospital,” Annitha said.

While other emergency medicine departments treat roughly 300 patients a day, Alexandra’s acute care clinic only sees 30. The low patient load means that wait times are remarkably short – a stark contrast when compared with other hospitals.

For example, patients at the acute care clinic in Alexandra are typically attended to by a doctor within 30 minutes, while the average wait in other hospitals is approximately one hour. Patients are also admitted to a ward in less than 1.5 hours, but the median wait time for ward admission in the other public hospitals fluctuate between one to three hours.

Based on statistics by the Health Ministry, the waiting time for admission at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has even spiked to over four hours on two days.

"At times, when there is overwhelming demand for our ED services, some patients with less critical conditions may have to wait longer for treatment and admission,” a spokesperson from TTSH said earlier this week. 

"In those situations, our patient ambassadors and nursing staff will strive to attend to concerns of the patients and caregivers, and to seek their understanding. Patients who do not require emergency care are advised to seek medical attention at the polyclinics or GP clinics."

According to Annitha, some of their patients seek treatment at the clinic because they are unable to find a general practitioner who is open late at night.

“We can start them on intravenous fluids and monitor them, for example,” she said. “We allow for all of this under one roof, which is not available in the GP setting.”

Healthcare team to move to new health facility next year

Alexandra hospital is currently run by a team from Sengkang Health, but the team will transfer to the Sengkang General Hospital building in Anchorvale Street – a new facility with 1,000 beds slated to open next year.

When the team moves to the new facility, Alexandra Hospital will be taken over by the National University Health System (NUHS), though further details of the plans are not yet known. 

During the address on the Health Ministry’s budget earlier this year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong mentioned that Alexandra has “tremendous potential for redevelopment,” and added that NUHS will be responsible to design innovative models of care to be tested at the Alexandra Campus.

According to Associate Professor Jason Phua, the project lead for the Alexandra Campus Development Team, the hospital will complement existing NUHS services that are available in western Singapore.

"While operating Alexandra Hospital, NUHS will also be working closely with the Ministry of Health on a feasibility study to review the overall masterplan for the campus," Professor Phua said.

"We envision a new health-empowering green campus that will provide holistic and integrated care, and preserve Alexandra Hospital's healthcare heritage." MIMS

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