Connecting the dots important in reaching out to seniors on pioneers' package: Halimah

From left to right : Dr Abdul Razakjr Omar, Ms Peh Kim Choo, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and Mr Gerard Ee at a policy forum organised by self-help group Mendaki. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN 
From left to right : Dr Abdul Razakjr Omar, Ms Peh Kim Choo, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and Mr Gerard Ee at a policy forum organised by self-help group Mendaki. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN 

The Pioneer Generation Package is a good policy that will ease the burden of medical bills, but the challenge is how to "connect the dots" on the ground to ensure seniors know they can get help and are able to access the benefits, said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob on Saturday.

And the best people to bridge the gap between policy and implementation are not government officers but those active within the community, like voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), grassroots groups and even fellow residents, she added.

"If you look at the facilities available on the ground, there are so many. But the question is how do we engage all these various groups so that we make sure at every contact point when seniors are there, they are able to receive this message," she said at a policy forum organised by self-help group Mendaki.

Other speakers at the event, which was held to help representatives from Malay-Muslim organisations better understand the package and discuss its outreach, also stressed the importance of making sure seniors are able to get help at every step of the way.

Ms Peh Kim Choo, director of the Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing, said this can be done through a network of care managers, both professionals and volunteers, who understand the seniors' family background. They can offer support by accompanying them to the doctor and following up to make sure they go for appointments and take their medication, she pointed out.

This network of caregivers and volunteers, along with the "kampung spirit", will help seniors to age in place within the community and a familiar environment, said Ms Peh, who also called for more to be done for the long-term care sector.

Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Council for Third Age and the Eastern Health Alliance, said the past distinctions between healthcare and social services no longer hold.

There is a growing realisation that agencies need to work together to plug gaps in the system, he said. For instance, pharmacists at Changi General Hospital have been told to keep an eye out for patients who ask for medicine dosages less than what they have been prescribed. They will refer these patients to medical social workers, who will follow through and ensure that those facing financial difficulties will get help.

Mr Ee and cardiologist Abdul Razakjr Omar also emphasised that healthcare is not just about acute care in hospitals. They called for greater awareness on the importance of prevention, such as through tweaking one's diet and going for health screenings.

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