Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Well, there are many opportunities for nursing home business in Johor Bahru. However, I forsee one simple problem which the Singaporeans know that they are not keen to invest - Security. If you are to build a nursing home or resort to lure Singaporeans over, you really need a top quality 24-hours gated security system to assure the safety of the old folks and the disabled.

I am sure the Singaporeans who plan to put the old folks and disabled family members or relatives over will be worried of their safety naturally. You need a really good security system to protect these homes and resorts. You never know crimes can happen everyday and people could even die faster.

Another concern is of course quality of health services. Unless it is provided by a well-managed private sector with qualified people, forget about it. You may get all sorts of problems like food poisoning to accidents to all kinds of incredible troubles you will never imagine in Singapore. Finally, air and water pollution. It is very normal to get very bad quality air and water once a while here which can easily kill weak old folks. You need a really good air and water filtration system in the nursing home / resort to give them better quality air and water.

'Nursing home in JB' remark only a suggestion

Khaw says he just wanted middle-income families to know that such an option exists

Feb 11, 2009
budget debate: MINISTRY OF HEALTH

HEALTH Minister Khaw Boon Wan had a suggestion on Monday for Singaporeans: Consider staying at a nursing home in neighbouring Johor where prices are lower.

Yesterday, it received flak from two opposition MPs.

Workers' Party (WP) chairman and Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim said the suggestion was 'quite a bad indication of affordability of our own health-care services here and also a reflection of our national values'.

Fellow WP member Low Thia Kiang (Hougang) asked: 'Is the minister suggesting that Singaporeans who cannot afford medical treatment or step-down care here should now consider such facilities in Johor?'

If so, is the minister 'outsourcing the Government's responsibility to provide affordable health-care service to Malaysia?' he asked.

Their remarks riled Mr Khaw.

'I'm not saying that if you are poor, I will put you in an ambulance, send you across the Causeway to a Johor nursing home. That is not what I said and please don't twist my words,' he said.

In fact, the Johor option is not for the poor, who are heavily subsidised in Singapore. 'Everybody can afford health care in Singapore, whether acute care or long-term care,' he pointed out.

The suggestion was aimed at middle- income families who need to pay for the care themselves. It gives them a choice.

'I just wanted to point out to Singaporeans that there are options like this,' Mr Khaw said.

Cost of nursing home care will always be more expensive in Singapore, as doctors and nurses are paid more and construction cost is higher, he said.

He had said on Monday that since many people visit the elderly in homes only on weekends, it makes little difference whether the person is housed here or in nearby Johor.

It is part of globalisation and is happening with Singaporeans going to Bangkok for Lasik to treat short-sightedness and Americans and Russians coming here for treatment, he noted.

It is also not something that should, or can, be prevented, he added.

Singaporeans are crossing the Causeway for cheaper petrol and medicine.

'By allowing the flexibility of consumers walking across the Causeway...they benefit. I don't think we should constrain them from doing so.'

Pointing to the United States, where 40 million to 50 million people cannot even afford health insurance, the minister said that in Singapore, even the unemployed or those with low incomes can afford a standard of care comparable to that in the US.

To a question from Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) on whether more can done to make health care affordable in these difficult times, Mr Khaw said cheap, or even free, health care was always possible.

But what standard of care would that provide, he asked.

'To keep health-care costs affordable is the easiest thing in the world, but to keep it also of a high standard and yet affordable, very few countries have done so.

'I like to believe that we are one of them. We are not perfect but I think we have done a fairly good job.'

He referred to a story in this month's Japan Echo on the country's health-care system, which 'screamed that it is on the verge of collapsing'.

Said Mr Khaw: 'I felt sorry for Japan because for a long time, it was among the best health-care systems in the world.'

He recalled a recent newspaper story about a seriously ill pregnant woman in Tokyo who died because several hospitals said they were too full to take her in.

He added that in the Echo report, the Japanese Health Minister blamed all the problems on pandering to politically populist measures.

'My job is to make sure we don't walk into that hole,' Mr Khaw said.

Singapore has already 'done a lot' for long-term care.

'If it's not enough, we will do much more,' he promised.

He also said that people must do their part too, by staying healthy and, if necessary, changing their lifestyles.

Feb 12, 2009
Main factor is the lower fees; some also have facilities comparable to those in Singapore
By Melissa Sim

WHEN civil servant Gordon Yong, 39, needed to find a nursing home for his mother following her stroke, he found the ones in Singapore too expensive.

They were charging between $1,200 and $1,800 a month - far more than he could afford on his salary of under $4,000, which also supports his three-child family. His working wife also has to look after her parents.

He did the next best thing and got his mother a place in a home in Johor Baru (JB) for $600 a month. This is how Madam Leong Mew Peng, 80, came to live in Spring Valley Homecare, less than half an hour's drive from the Causeway.

Fellow Singaporean Alison Low, 58, checked herself into Spring Valley over two years ago - also for cost reasons.

The three-year-old home has 11 Singaporeans, making up one in five residents there. Of the 10 other homes The Straits Times inquired at in JB, eight said they had between one and 10 Singaporeans.

Checks with their kin showed cost savings to be the main draw of these homes.

A plug for these homes came in Parliament on Monday from Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who said Singaporeans could save money by using JB nursing homes. For what it costs to board someone in a private nursing home here, 'you can stretch it easily to pay for at least 21/2 months of nursing home care in Johor Baru', he said. The facilities there typically charge between $450 and $1,000 a month, compared to those here which ask for between $1,000 and $4,000.

Mr Khaw said another perk is that JB is 'near enough for relatives to visit'.

But 57-year-old supervisor Mohamed Waris, whose father is at Spring Valley, said he has problems finding a cab to go there. Nonetheless, he makes the journey every two to three weeks.

Those who check out JB homes are also finding some with facilities that are comparable to those here.

Spring Valley, for example, follows Singapore regulations and provides one toilet for every four beds. Its high ceilings and large windows make its rooms airy.

China Healthcare, previously known as Econ Healthcare, will open a 200-bed home in JB within two years, following its 100-bed facility in Kuala Lumpur. Its chairman, Mr Ong Chu Poh, said a home in JB would appeal to Singaporeans due to their familiarity with the town, its proximity to Singapore and the lower fees.

Mr Yong would agree that JB is still the best choice for him now for those reasons. 'I'm just unable to afford the rates here. But I do wish I was able to bring my mother back.'

Additional reporting by Jalelah Abu Baker

Twilight in JB, Forum


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