Long-term care

Funding system can shape best practices

Thursday's report is good news ("Govt to review financing system for long-term care").

Putting resources to help the population grow old healthily and positively will help ease the pressure on younger workers.

It is timely and wise to review the financing system now.

Funding is well known to shape good practices by service providers and encourage desirable behaviour among the populace.

I suggest a few principles for consideration.

First, select only schemes that are designed in consultation with the elderly to be funded by the Government.

Services and schemes should be designed to meet the elderly's current needs and not what administrators think they need.

For instance, there may be useful services that planners have seen on overseas study trips.

However, Singapore is a uniquely multiracial country, with each race having its unique needs and cultural views.

It is prudent to use the funds for schemes most appropriate for our elderly population.

Second, funding can encourage positive and health-seeking behaviours.

For example, more subsidies can be given to homecare services and daycare services instead of old folks homes, so that families can care for the elderly in their own homes.

Another example would be to put more funds into prevention care, such as fall prevention and exercise programmes.

Third, funding can encourage service providers to adhere to best practices.

For example, a homecare service could be given incentives to do its best to keep the elderly out of acute care hospitals. Or it may be rewarded if it organises more activities that engage caregivers.

Fourth, sufficient funds must be allocated for administration, audit and data collection.

In many voluntary organisations, the administration is lean. Staff will not be able to cope without additional manpower.

The public will demand that the funds disbursed be properly accounted for.

Hence, data collection and audits are inevitable. This will mean additional work for existing staff.

Therefore, a separate amount of money will need to be allocated for this purpose.

Fifth, the funds must be easily and readily accessible to service providers and users. The application process cannot be too onerous such that it creates hurdles even before the service starts.

The funds must also be disbursed in a timely manner. Much of the disbursement process may have to be streamlined and reviewed often to ensure that the needed funds are disbursed swiftly.

Putting these to work in this way will ensure that the $3 billion will be spent efficiently and effectively.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Funding system can shape best practices'. Print Edition | Subscribe