A growing number of infirm Singaporeans are being admitted to nursing homes in Johor Baru as prices there are as low as half price of Singapore’s.
For example, at City Heart Care nursing home, patients pay $900 a month for a two-bedded private room. A similar room in Singapore would cost more than $1,800.
Major nursing home players are considering expanding in Johor Baru due to the burgeoning demand.
This month, Singapore’s Econ Healthcare Group, operating 8 nursing homes here, opened a four-storey home in Taman Perling. The 199-bed home is 30 minutes away from the Causeway.
One of Johor Baru’s largest nursing home operators, Spring Valley Homecare has also recently bought a piece of land measuring 8,000 square feet in Johor Baru.
They hope to build a 3-storey, 84-bed facility by the year’s end.
City Heart Care is also looking to buy more bungalows.
According to Econ group’s chairman Ong Chu Poh: “There is potential in Johor Baru because of lower land and labour costs, which mean lower fees.”
More than a third of Spring Valley’s 150 residents are Singaporeans, compared with one fifth about 5 years ago. At City Heart Care, the number of Singaporeans is now at 20%, at least double the number it had last year.
Nursing home fees in Singapore cost between $1,200 to $3,500 a month before government subsidies of between 10 per cent to 75 per cent. Households with per capita household incomes of above $2,600 do not qualify for these subsidies. In Johor Baru, fees start from a mere $600 a month.
Mr Frankie Ker, director of Spring Valley, said most of his Singaporean residents come from the “sandwiched middle class”.
He said: “If you are poor, the Government will look after you. If you are rich, you can afford three maids to look after you 24 hours. If you’re middle-class, it’s tough.”
A lack of bed space in Singapore is another reason why more are heading to Johor Bahru.
There are 10,000 beds now in Singapore and the Health Ministry wants to increase this to 17,150 by 2020. Work on seven new nursing homes began this year.
Operators said demand for nursing home space here will only grow, given Singapore’s ageing population, creating a spill-over effect across the Causeway.
But living in Johor Bahru creates problems for patients, who feel lonely when their families find it hard to visit the because they have to cross the Causeway. The nursing homes say that they are trying to encourage family visits.
Retired labourer Seow Teck Beng, who has been living at Spring Valley for three years, sees his children every three months. “I miss them,” the 89-year-old said.