The Health Ministry will loosen restrictions on Medisave use and build polyclinics in more neighbourhoods as part of efforts to keep healthcare close to the homes of Singaporeans.
It is also topping up funds for community support schemes and creating more avenues for healthcare professionals to work in the community care sector.
These announcements in Parliament yesterday flesh out the ministry's push to focus on preventive care, as well as the primary and community care sectors.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said there will be at least 30 polyclinics by 2030, an increase from the current 20.
Elaborating, Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said four will be opened in Eunos, Kallang, Sembawang and Bukit Panjang in two years.
He added that another two polyclinics will open in Nee SoonCentral and Tampines North by 2023, with four to six more planned elsewhere, including in the west and central parts of Singapore.
STRONG PRIMARY CARE
The cornerstone of a sustainable healthcare system is strong primary care, where patients with chronic conditions are managed well in the community, with better health outcomes.
SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH LAM PIN MIN
At least 30 polyclinics by 2030
2017 Two new polyclinics opened in Pioneer and Punggol, bringing the total to 20.
2020 Four more polyclinics to be opened in Bukit Panjang, Eunos, Kallang and Sembawang.
2023 Two more polyclinics to be opened in Nee Soon Central and Tampines North.
2030 Four to six more polyclinics to be opened across the west, central and east of Singapore.
"The cornerstone of a sustainable healthcare system is strong primary care, where patients with chronic conditions are managed well in the community, with better health outcomes," Dr Lam said.
The Medisave announcement was made by Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat. He said the annual Medisave withdrawal limit for chronic medical conditions, vaccinations and health screenings will be raised from $400 to $500.
Also, the age limit for Flexi-Medisave - a scheme to help seniors offset the costs of outpatient treatment - will be lowered from 65 to 60. This is expected to benefit 260,000 Singaporeans aged between 60 and 64, he added.
Both changes will take effect from June, he added during the debate on the ministry's budget.
Mr Gan and Mr Chee were replying to several MPs' questions on the ageing population, including how senior care infrastructure and manpower will be adapted for the elderly to age in place without having to be admitted to a hospital or nursing home.
Dr Lily Neo (Jalan Besar GRC) welcomed the decision to bring healthcare and social support for seniors under the ministry's umbrella, but cautioned that the operational details will require much work.
"Daily meals and activity programmes must be provided with an aim in mind - to assist seniors to remain in the community and ward off frailty, diseases and immobility," she said. "Is MOH poised to train present and future per-sonnel to provide these aged care services?"
Replying, Senior Minister of State Amy Khor said existing services will be expanded to help seniors age in familiar surroundings.
These include more subsidies for transport to subsidised eldercare and dialysis centres, and expanding these subsidies to medical supplies needed for home palliative care.
It will place nurses and pharmacists in the community so that medical help is within easy reach.
The ministry is also looking at "housing plus" models that combine housing with care, similar to assisted living facilities overseas.
Dr Khor said: "Our models of care will need to evolve, as there is no one-size-fits-all option for seniors."
Correction note: The article has been edited for clarity.