Bukit Batok by-election

Murali gives details of health co-op to help elderly residents

Mr Murali greeting residents while on a walkabout in Bukit Batok yesterday. The PAP candidate for the by-election says he will work with non-profit organisation, The Good Life Cooperative, to provide regular health screenings and check-ups for elderl
Mr Murali greeting residents while on a walkabout in Bukit Batok yesterday. The PAP candidate for the by-election says he will work with non-profit organisation, The Good Life Cooperative, to provide regular health screenings and check-ups for elderly residents, via mobile clinics that will make visits to the estate.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Both candidates for the Bukit Batok by-election yesterday pressed on with their campaigns for the May 7 polls. Mr Murali Pillai gave details of his healthcare plans, while Dr Chee Soon Juan responded to PAP leaders' criticisms of his character as he reiterated his plans.

People's Action Party candidate Murali Pillai will start a healthcare cooperative in Bukit Batok to help meet the healthcare needs of elderly residents in the single-member constituency.

He will work with non-profit organisation, The Good Life Cooperative, to give residents regular health screenings and check-ups at their doorstep - through mobile clinics that will make visits to the estate.

"This idea evolved after numerous discussions with residents. We found out that our Bukit Batok residents are concerned about healthcare costs, particularly in relation to the elderly, and those who need long-term treatment," he said yesterday.

He was speaking to reporters after a walkabout. With three more days to win the hearts of residents, both Mr Murali and his opponent in Saturday's by-election, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, have been trying to reach out to as many voters as possible.

Mr Murali also gave details of how he plans to reduce healthcare costs for the elderly if he is elected.

The Good Life chairman Carol Tan, who accompanied him on the walkabout, said the scheme is open to all, but having more members concentrated in a certain area would mean that mobile clinics can ply the neighbourhood more frequently.

This would require someone who is able to not only raise funds, but also reach out to residents and encourage them to sign up, she said.

"It isn't just about having money to buy the (mobile clinic). Because if the bus is there, but nobody comes, it doesn't serve the people," said Dr Tan, who is a PAP member.

The cooperative, which was started in 2014 to bring doctors and nurses in private practice together to offer healthcare services at a lower rate, would also allow its members to purchase items such as vaccines, adult diapers and catheters at a lower price, she said.

Mr Murali said this move would, in particular, help the "sandwiched class", who may not qualify for as many subsidies as those in lower-income households but still struggle to pay the bills.

The cooperative would give health talks in English, Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and various dialects to help elderly residents prevent or delay the onset of illnesses, by encouraging them to make lifestyle changes, he said.

He had worked with The Good Life last year to bring mobile clinics to residents in Aljunied GRC - where he was in the PAP team that got 49 per cent of the votes against the Workers' Party - and Hougang SMC.

Bukit Batok, an ageing town that has been around for about 30 years, would benefit from a similar programme, he said. "We will help as many as possible. But at the present moment, we seek the buy-in of our Bukit Batok residents and hope they can support us."

When asked whether the health cooperative would be set up regardless of who is elected MP, Dr Tan said it was apolitical but "will work with the leader we believe will be able to drive the programme".

In his manifesto for the seat, Mr Murali said he would focus on helping three groups: those seeking jobs, elderly residents and children from low-income or broken families.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'Murali gives details of health co-op to help elderly residents '. Print Edition | Subscribe