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Helping hand for elderly, disabled commuters extended to Novena, Jurong East MRT stations

SINGAPORE — Elderly, frail and disabled commuters who require help making their way to hospitals can seek help at two new additional "Heart Zones" set up at Novena and Jurong East MRT stations from Monday (June 25).

A "Heart Zone" at Novena MRT Station. The Heart Zones, launched by the Public Transport Council in collaboration with the Land Transport Authority, SMRT Trains, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, provide a platform for commuters to assist and support other commuters who require mobility assistance around the area.

A "Heart Zone" at Novena MRT Station. The Heart Zones, launched by the Public Transport Council in collaboration with the Land Transport Authority, SMRT Trains, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, provide a platform for commuters to assist and support other commuters who require mobility assistance around the area.

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SINGAPORE — Elderly, frail and disabled commuters who require help making their way to hospitals can seek help at two new additional "Heart Zones" set up at Novena and Jurong East MRT stations from Monday (June 25).

This initiative, an extension of a trial which kicked off at Outram Park MRT station last year, will enable staff working at nearby hospitals as well as members of the public to meet commuters who require assistance at specific meeting points, and help them get to their destinations.

At Novena MRT Station, the Heart Zone set up at Meeting Point A with the help of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) will be available on weekdays between 7.30am and 1pm. Over at Jurong East, the meeting point is at Exit D, will operate on weekdays between 8am and 10am, with assistance of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH).

Speaking to reporters at the launch of the Heart Zone at Novena MRT station on Monday, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min said the Heart Zone was extended to two more MRT stations following "very good feedback" received for the trial set up at Outram Park MRT station in August last year.

Between August 2017 to January 2018, physically challenged commuters received assistance in navigating the 210m linkway between North East Line and East West Line, as well as assistance in making their way to Singapore General Hospital.

The Outram Park Heart Zone, part of a wider initiative by the Public Transport Council (PTC), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and public transport operators to provide ways for commuters to assist fellow commuters who may need help on their public transport journey, benefitted some 1,200 commuters over a month, according to a PTC survey conducted between August and September last year.

It was well-received with commuters even suggesting more locations, Dr Lam said. Hence, the Outram Park trial, set up with the collaboration of Singapore General Hospital, will now be made permanent, a PTC spokesperson added.

Emphasising that the Heart Zone is a "step in the right direction towards a caring commuting culture in Singapore", Dr Lam added that the two stations were chosen "especially for those who need assistance getting to the nearby hospitals".

Asked if there are plans to expand the Heart Zones across the Island, Dr Lam said: "(LTA, PTC and SMRT) would want to expand this to as many MRT stations near to healthcare institutions as possible, and we will progressively look at the areas where we can implement this."

NTFGH has dedicated an average of two volunteers, who are not staff, to help out at the Heart Zone during operational hours, while TTSH has trained more than 100 staff members, including nurses, allied health members and administrative staff to help out.

Novena MRT Station is linked to TTSH by an underground walkway, and will also serve the upcoming HealthCity Novena, which would encompass seven health institutions, slated for completion in 2030.

Jurong East MRT Station, on the other hand, is linked to NTFGH via an elevated pedestrian network called J-Walk.

As part of the Heart Zone launch, TTSH is also leading a "Walk-with-me" social movement aimed at encouraging those working or living in the Novena area to proactively look out for and assist commuters who may need help finding their way around HealthCity Novena.

As Ms Teri Tham, 25, a staff ambassador and occupational therapist at TTSH, put it: "There is no designated timeline … we can immediately approach them as and whenever the commuters need help."

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the upcoming HealthCity Novena would encompass eight health institutions. This is incorrect. It should be seven health institutions. We apologise for the error.

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