S'pore needs to build up home-based care: Minister

'Aggressive' action needed to ease load on nursing homes, community hospitals

Although one in four Japanese is 65 or older, a mere 3 per cent live in institutions like nursing homes or community hospitals.

What Singapore has learnt from countries like Japan is that it needs to plan early and develop home-based care "aggressively" if it wants to moderate the rate of institutionalisation, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

To this end, his ministry has formed a workgroup, a first step in developing future training and career pathways for nursing in home and community-based care, he announced at a home healthcare conference.

Speaking to the 150 nurses, doctors and policy administrators at the National Heart Centre, where the event was held, Mr Gan said: "We will be engaging key nursing leaders to develop the framework further."

He highlighted the workgroup, which includes senior nurses across care sectors, as an effort to grow and develop manpower capabilities in home-based care. With more seniors and weaker family support, the demand for aged care and institutionalisation will grow, but ageing in place remains the preference of seniors, Mr Gan said.

An MOH spokesman said the aim of the workgroup includes defining the key roles of nurses in community nursing, and mapping out their potential career and training pathways.

"MOH seeks to enhance community nursing as a career option for nurses, as a key enabler to transform the delivery of care from hospitals to the home and community," she said.

Community nursing involves nursing care for individuals in their homes and the community, rather than in places like community hospitals, nursing homes and daycare centres.

Ms Chan Mei Mei, director of nursing with conference organiser Home Nursing Foundation, the oldest provider of home nursing services here, said such a framework would be good for skills and training.

This, in turn, would make the sector more attractive as a career option and help in recruiting and retaining nurses in the sector, which faces staff shortages.

Ms Karen Lee, chief executive of Home Nursing Foundation, added: "There are more nurses going out to work in the community and we are asking if there are appropriate training programmes for them, appropriate career development, and that's of real concern."

Other than manpower, Mr Gan pointed out four areas in which Singapore has stepped up efforts to ramp up home-based care.

They are: increasing capacity of home-care services; expanding their diversity and range; ensuring they remain affordable; and leveraging on technology to enhance productivity and effectiveness.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore needs to build up home-based care: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe