Singapore Budget 2015: More transport subsidies for elderly attending day rehab and dialysis

SINGAPORE- More seniors will be subsidised for transport costs to Government-funded day rehabilitation and dialysis centres, said Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor.

The Health Ministry will extend such subsidies to include those requiring "some form of mobility assistance" such as those on walking sticks. The level of funding support given will be based on mobility needs.

Currently, such subsidies under the Senior's Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF) are only available to wheelchair-bound seniors.

"The fact that elderly may not follow up with rehab could be due to factors, such as no transport to day rehab," Dr Khor told Parliament on Thursday in explaining the impetus for the move.

She was addressing concerns of Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) and Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) regarding rehabilitation services for the elderly.

The Health Ministry expects to provide an additional $14 million from the SMF to support eldercare providers in providing transport to clients. An additional 1,000 elderly will benefit from this enhancement, up from the current 2,000 seniors who get transport subsidies under the SMF, Dr Khor said.

Since 2013, close to $17 million in subsidies have been provided through the fund.

The $50 million SMF not only provides for the transport needs to those travelling to centres but also allows Singaporean seniors above 60 to tap on it to gain up to 90 percent subsidies on hearing aids. The subsidises also cover other special equipment such as raisable beds and wheelchairs which patients need at home.

To encourage rehab, health institutions have also piloted tele-rehab so patients can do rehabilitation exercises from the comfort of their own home. The Health Ministry also started subsidies for home rehab last year and the number of patients on such programmes has more than doubled in 2014 from the 302 two years earlier.

Besides transport subsidies, measures have also been put in place for seniors to age gracefully and move around safely and independently in their home environment.

Dr Khor cited the example of a City for All Ages project at Marine Parade where healthcare staff screened seniors for the risk of falling and taught them how to prevent falls.