Looking forward: Happenings at home

Meeting healthcare needs of ageing society

A nurse helping an elderly patient at Institute of Mental Health (IMH).
A nurse helping an elderly patient at Institute of Mental Health (IMH).PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore will continue to ramp up its healthcare capabilities to meet the expected rise in demand from an ageing population.

The number of people aged 65 years and older will more than double from 430,000 today to more than 900,000 in 2030. One priority is to keep these people as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, so they can both enjoy quality life and also not require hospital care.

Environmental health issues will also continue to be of concern - as they have been every year for decades. Aside from the perennial dengue and haze problems, there are also international outbreaks like ebola and Mers to guard against.

MEDISHIELD LIFE

One foundation has already been laid with the launch of MediShield Life last November. It provides people with hospital insurance coverage from birth to death.

  • The year ahead

  • • Standard coverage beyond MediShield Life

    • Easing of bed crunch

    • Tackling dengue worries

This year should see the launch of the "standard B1 plan" that will apply to all the five insurers which offer schemes pegged at private rates, that integrate the basic MediShield Life plan which is meant to cover subsidised care.

One worry that has emerged is the way private health insurance premiums have been rising, as well as the widely varying premiums different insurers charge.

The MediShield Life review committee had suggested the Ministry of Health work with insurers to come up with a standard B1 plan - the lowest level of private integrated plans. Higher plans provide cover for A class and private hospital treatment.

The committee wants this standard plan to "give Singaporeans an option for enhanced coverage beyond the basic MediShield Life level in a standardised, affordable and easily understood package".

BED CRUNCH

 

The opening of two community hospitals last year, with a total of more than 800 beds between them, should ease the severe bed crunch in public hospitals in recent years.

This will likely be further eased as Alexandra Hospital starts taking in its own patients again this year, with the opening of its specialist outpatient clinics.

The hospital was closed for renovation last June and though it reopened 200 beds in August, it had only been taking in spillover patients from other hospitals.

Alexandra Hospital, which is being manned by the team that will eventually run the hospital in Sengkang scheduled to open in 2018, will also expand its services this year with more beds.

The opening of two new nursing homes, at Hougang and Pearl's Hill, will further add to the total bed complement. Whether these measures will be enough to meet the rising demand for hospital and recovery care must certainly be the question at the forefront of public hospital administrators' minds.

AGEING

There will be several new eldercare centres, including three Wellness and Care Centres in the Yishun area and two Senior Care Centres in the new Ci Yuan Community Club and in Kaki Bukit.

Some of these centres will offer home care services to senior residents living nearby. More of this can be expected in the future to make it easier for the frail elderly to continue living at home.

Residents in Marine Parade can look forward to a renovated polyclinic which should reopen in the first half of the year.

DENGUE

The unseasonally warm year end has resulted in a higher than normal rate of dengue infection, with the year's numbers peaking at 372 cases a week in December.

More than 11,000 people had been infected last year, with four dying of dengue.

People here, as well as doctors and hospitals, will need to prepare for a possibly severe outbreak of this mosquito-borne viral disease that can kill. This is especially since there has been a switch in the dominant viral strain, which means lower immunity in people here.

It would be even better if everyone joins in the fight to eradicate mosquito breeding, as that is currently the only way to stop the spread of the disease - until an effective vaccine becomes commercially available.

facebook.com/ST.Salma

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Meeting healthcare needs of ageing society'. Print Edition | Subscribe