SINGAPORE – The upgraded Singapore General Hospital Burn Centre opened on Thursday (Aug 15), as the Ministry of Health (MOH) also announced plans to redevelop the burns capability in other hospitals in Singapore.

The SGH Burn Centre, which was first opened in 1962, now features a modular design that allows either side of the facility to be closed off during a mass burns incident to reduce the risk of cross contamination between existing and new patients.

The centre, which underwent two years of upgrading works, also has two operating theatres with a custom-built climate control system that creates a low-humidity environment to prevent bacteria growth in patients, and maintain a warm temperature to lower their risk of hypothermia due to extensive skin destruction or loss.

Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, who attended the opening of the centre, noted that the upgraded facilities are timely considering the rise in the number of burns patients here.

Over the past five years, the number of patients admitted to the SGH Burn Centre has increased from 150 to 220 each year.

Of these patients, 10 to 15 per cent of them suffer severe burns, with more than 30 per cent of total burn surface area involvement, requiring them to undergo skin grafting in order to survive, he added.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 12th Asia Pacific Burn Congress held at Academia in the SGH Campus.

More than 500 local and overseas practitioners and experts from 22 countries will be participating in the three-day programme.

As the major burns referral centre for South-east Asia, the SGH Burn Centre’s improved facilities will enable it to cater to both current and anticipated needs, as well as respond more readily during mass burns incidents, said Professor Fong Kok Yong, deputy group chief executive (Medical and Clinical Services) of SingHealth.

The centre’s operating theatres, as well as its 10 high-dependency and isolation rooms, can be converted into intensive care unit wards. This maximises care delivery based on the condition and needs of patients.

Dr Lam said MOH plans to redevelop the burns capability in other hospitals such as KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital to improve Singapore’s overall systems capacity for burns management.

The ministry will also be supporting burns manpower training through cross training among healthcare institutions and overseas attachments, so that staff can familiarise themselves with the burns protocols.

At the Congress, the Asia Pacific Burn Association announced a new set of skin banking guidelines to ensure common safety standards and practices for skin donor screening, recovery, processing, storage and distribution across the region.

The guidelines aim to expedite the exchange of donated skin during a crisis and facilitate closer collaboration between the association’s members, which include China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.