New day hospice offers spa, bar, mahjong room to reshape palliative care perceptions

SINGAPORE – In this Oasis, life is celebrated in the face of death, so there are treats such as a mahjong and board games room, a spa and a bar with a weekly happy hour.

The newly launched Oasis @ Outram day hospice also has Instagram-worthy decor, an in-house cinema with plush seats and horticulture and baking sessions, in a bid to change perceptions of the end-of-life stage and palliative care.

The approximately 900 sq m space – about the size of two basketball courts – at Outram Community Hospital is the result of a partnership between HCA Hospice Care and the philanthropic Lien Foundation, which contributed $2.47 million.

The facility, HCA’s third centre following its Marsiling and Serangoon locations, will officially open in January 2022 following its soft launch in July this year.

It aims to offer something different from its other centres, where patients have to follow a pre-decided programme of the day, to one where they can choose from a range of activities at any given time.

Access is free for patients referred by HCA who have life-limiting illnesses such as cancer or organ failure, with a prognosis of one year or less.

It is also open to paediatric patients under HCA’s Star Pals programme, which aims to improve the quality of life for children and minors up to age 19 who have life-threatening or life-limiting ailments such as neurological or congenital conditions or childhood cancers.

There is a dedicated space for paediatric patients, with a cosy nook to play in, a jacuzzi in the bathroom as well as a mechanical hoist system to carry children between the bed and the restroom, saving parents the physical strain.

Oasis @ Outram can take up to 45 adult and three paediatric patients at maximum capacity. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the cap is 32 patients for now, with 30 being adults.

It will operate from Mondays to Fridays from 7am to 7pm from January.

Mr Gabriel Lim, programme director of Lien Foundation, said: “In spaces run by charities, functionality is often prioritised over design.

“But well-designed spaces can sometimes bring healing and dignity when human companions can’t, especially for social-emotional challenges. We hope Oasis @ Outram inspires the design of similar facilities in the future.”

The design was done by Singapore-based Lekker Architects and international design studio The Care Lab.

The hospice care provider is hoping that through the use of new conversational tools developed by The Care Lab, it can help patients grow and develop, and facilitate difficult but important end-of-life conversations.

For example, a Wheel of Life tool allows patients to move physical nodules along the scales on the board to reflect how satisfied they are in different aspects of their life, and determine which areas they want to improve.

The wheel of life, a scale with different elements that gauges a patient’s goals and concerns, at the Kozy Korner at Oasis @ Outram. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Another tool, the Bite Size Future Kit, will see staff inviting patients for an afternoon tea session with a box that has a five-by-five grid, and each square has a small snack or candy paired with a card.

The cards contain questions that vary in difficulty, such as “What does a good day look like to you?”, “Where do you want to die?” and “Are you afraid of being a burden to your family and others?”.

Emotions cards are used to allow patients to communicate their feelings at Oasis @ Outram. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

For Madam Lee Ah Moy, 83, who has been visiting Oasis @ Outram thrice a week since July, the facility is a step up from the Marsiling hospice she used to visit.

“This place is more open and spacious and it is nearer to my house,” said Madam Lee, who lives in Clementi. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2019.

She added that she enjoys the activities such as arts and crafts – she was cutting Christmas-themed patterns during a media tour – and has made friends with other visitors to the facility.

For Madam Lee Ah Moy (right), the facility is a step up from the Marsiling hospice she used to visit. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

If she were not at the hospice, she would be at home sleeping or watching television, she said.

HCA chief executive Angeline Wee said the hospice care provider is committed to blazing new trails in palliative care and wants to add life to the days of its patients.

She added: “We want our patients to be able to do what they want, when they want and feel the dignity that they so deserve.”