Govt to raise awareness of end-of-life care: DPM Teo

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean is presented with a token of appreciation by HCA Hospice Care vice-president Mary Ong (centre) and Nectar Care Service president Venerable Seck Sian Siang. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean is presented with a token of appreciation by HCA Hospice Care vice-president Mary Ong (centre) and Nectar Care Service president Venerable Seck Sian Siang. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) hopes to raise awareness on end-of-life care, even as most people shun away from discussing death, treatment and care before they fall ill.

The ministry has started working with some partners. Last month, MOH supported the Lien Foundation in its Both Sides Now exhibition which took place in Yishun and Toa Payoh. The exhibition aimed to get people talking about living and dying in creative ways through art, dialogues, and puppetry performances.

This will help Singaporeans learn about palliative care and "have these important conversations with their loved ones about end-of-life issues," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Saturday.

He added that each year, between 5,000 and 6,000 patients receive palliative care. This number is expected to go up to 10,000 by 2020, due to the country's ageing population, said Mr Teo.

Speaking at an end-of-life care roadshow organised by HCA Hospice Care and palliative care provider Nectar Care Services, Mr Teo said as death is considered a taboo topic, end-of-life care are often made only after a medical crisis strikes, "in an atmosphere fraught with stress and worry".

"This not only causes much distress to patients, but also to their loved ones," he said.

But palliative care allows a patient to continue having a quality of life even as death is nearing. It also reduces anxiety for the patient's family members, said Mr Teo.

The Health Ministry had announced its plans to boost palliative care support in June this year by increasing the number of residential and home-based palliative care services. From next year, the ministry will increase the Medisave withdrawal limits for palliative care. Quality of end-of-life care will also be improved under a new national palliative care guideline.

"With good palliative care, more patients can spend their last days in comfort and dignity, and their families can also be better prepared emotionally to see them through their last journey," said Mr Teo.

About 300 people, including palliative and hospice care volunteers, attended the roadshow at the School of the Arts.

leepearl@sph.com.sg