Majority of residents support nursing home plan: Wong Kan Seng

UPDATED (11am, 31 May, with Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Wong Kan Seng's statement)

The majority of Bishan residents welcome the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) plan to build a nursing home at Bishan Street 13, said MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Wong Kan Seng.

“My view is that a great majority of the residents who attended the dialogue on Sunday supported the Government's plan to build nursing homes to meet the needs of our aging population,” he said in an email response to Yahoo! Singapore.

"Bishan East has a higher proportion of residents above 65 now compared to the national average," he said, adding that there will be more of such residents in coming years.

A group of residents who live in the three blocks directly facing the proposed site in front of Block 181 have petitioned against the plan, citing various reasons.

Referring to this group, Wong said, “I can appreciate why they are unhappy because they have been used to the unobstructed view from their flat for many years.”

But he reminded that them that the vacant land that is currently being used as a "football field" is only temporary and that the Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) has been paying a yearly fee to use it.

However, he said all feedback from the residents who spoke at a dialogue session on Sunday will be considered before a final decision is made.

Earlier this week, residents Yahoo! Singapore spoke to welcomed the idea of setting up a nursing home in Bishan, but do not want it to be built near their flats. Blockage of airflow, overcongestion and too near a school are some of the reasons they cited.

The MOH plans to build a six-to-eight storey nursing home on the 0.3ha vacant plot, which will be closely flanked by Blocks 175, 181, 186 and 182 on three sides.

Currently a fenced up football field, it is situated directly opposite Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary and Secondary Schools.

“I disagree with it [building a nursing home]. It will block the wind to our flats. They [MOH] should build the home somewhere else in Bishan, but not on this plot of land. There are better and bigger fields in this area,” said 25-year-old Hema Sedemparam, a nurse.

Housewife Madam Cheong echoed Sedemparam’s view, saying: “I’m not comfortable with it. I have lived more than 20 years here, and the air is good. But the nursing home is about seven floors high and will block the wind from my apartment.”

The 48-year-old added that the area is too small to build a nursing home and too enclosed by the HDB flats around. “I’m not opposed to the building, but it’s just too close to the flats.” she said. 

Others oppose the construction of the nursing home for different reasons. According to retiree Wu Ying, the plot of land is not a good location for the facility.

“It’s not a good environment for a nursing home. Old people need a good environment to go for walks, but there are no gardens or trees around,” said the 70-year-old.

In addition, a mother Yahoo! spoke to was concerned about the facility’s close proximity with nearby schools.

Said Madam Neo, who has a daughter studying in Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School: “I think the nursing home is not a good idea because there’s a school just opposite the place. Kids will be playing and walking around [the facility] and you don’t know what kind of diseases they might get.”

However, residents like administrative officer Roxanne Chong applauded MOH’s initiative.

“It’s a good thing, since there are a lot of old people here [in Bishan] and we need the facilities. Anyway not many people play soccer in that field,” said the 21-year-old.

On Sunday, a dialogue involving Bishan GRC MP Wong Kan Seng was held at Bishan Community Club to discuss the issue. A petition with about 40 names has been submitted to MOH, according to the Straits Times.

Group director of ageing planning with MOH, Teoh Zsin Woon, told the paper that the site was chosen for its appropriate size and because it was close to public transport facilities.

According to the ministry, construction is due to start in 2013 and end by 2015 but it will consider feedback for alternative sites before making a final decision.

The Singapore People's Party (SPP) agreed with residents that another location should be chosen for the nursing home.

In a statement issued late on Monday night, the SPP said: "Alternative sites should be actively sought. The location of the nursing home in this case is still negotiable."

The party added that it will be gather the views of Bishan residents during its walkabout on Sunday.

This is not the first time residents have protested the construction of elderly facilities in their vicinity. In February, a plan to build studio apartments for the elderly in Toh Yi was opposed by residents on the grounds that the location was not accessible for the aged.

In the same month, residents from Woodlands signed a petition against the construction of a day-care center for the elderly in the void decks of Block 860 and 861.

Another petition was submitted in May by residents of Jalan Batu, requesting for elderly facilities to be built elsewhere.