When it comes to healthcare, it is not just doctors and nurses who play an important role. The community, too, can lend a hand in reaching out to at-risk residents in their neighbourhoods.
This is the aim of a pioneering project called Neighbours for Active Living, spearheaded by the South East Community Development Council (SE CDC).
Under the project, which started in July 2013, about 50 neighbourhood volunteers were recruited by SE CDC and trained by health system company Eastern Health Alliance (EH Alliance).
These volunteers aim to help at-risk residents - typically elderly patients suffering from multiple illnesses - in reducing the chances of them suffering from relapses and health complications during house visits.
The help rendered by the volunteers typically involves checking on the medical condition of the residents, ensuring that their medication is taken, and helping out in house cleaning. At times, the volunteers may also take the residents to the hospital.
The volunteers are trained to acquire skills in areas like communication with the elderly and assessment of medical needs.
The residents are often referred by organisations such as elderly activity centres and grassroots communities to the EH Alliance's Community Care team, which is in charge of the project.
The team then assigns the volunteers to these residents.
For instance, the team first heard of the plight of retiree Tan Tock Hwee, a 66-year-old who lives alone and suffers from multiple medical conditions, after the Bedok Senior Activity Centre contacted the team. His worried neighbours had contacted the centre after observing that Mr Tan had not left his home for 15 days.
When the team visited Mr Tan at his Bedok flat, he was found to be very ill and suffering from end-stage appendix cancer. It immediately brought him to the nearby Changi General Hospital, where he received emergency surgery.
Now, Mr Tan is frequently visited by volunteers such as Madam Sariffah Zaharah, 56, who works part time in a legal office as an administrative clerk. Madam Sariffah visits him almost daily to remind him of his medical appointments and ensure that he takes his medication.
To date, the project has reached out to more than 200 at-risk residents in Bedok, Siglap and Marine Parade. Plans are in the pipeline to expand it in other areas in the east, such as Tampines and Pasir-Ris Punggol GRCs, within the next two years.