RESIDENTS in Sengkang will be able to enjoy the facilities of a general hospital by 2020. By then, there will also be enoughhealth-care professionals to meet the demands of the population, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday. The hospital, with the working name of Sengkang General Hospital (SKGH),will be located next to the Cheng Lim LRT station. It will also be within walking distance of the Sengkang MRT station.

What is certain is that the facility will be a “full-fledged general hospital” that “covers all the major disciplines”. When operational in 2020, it will serve those living in Sengkang, Punggol, Hougang and Pasir Ris. By then, there will be enough professionals to meet Singapore’s rapidly expanding health-care needs, Mr Khaw pledged.

The third medical school at Nanyang Technological University is on track to accept its first batch of students in 2013. The two others are the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. Together, they will train about 500 doctors annually. With the addition of foreign-trained graduates, there will be enough doctors, Mr Khaw said.

Mr Khaw responded to Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC), who said there was a need for more staff across all health-care sectors and disciplines due to “an increasing patient load, rapidly ageing population, and increasing expectations of our populace”. The doctor to patient ratio is not optimal, she said, compared with other developed countries. She asked what plans the MOH had to enhance health-care manpower, and the outcome of ongoing efforts to woo Singaporean medical students and doctors working overseas back here.

Mr Khaw replied that current efforts have already improved the doctor to population ratio to 1:580. “But I agree with her that distribution among specialities is a bigger challenge that must be addressed.” He also said the Pre-EmploymentGrant for Singaporean medical students in their final years of study has been well-received. More than 30 studying in Britain have committed to returning under the scheme and a bigger number of them is expected from Australia.