Debate on ministries' budgets

Focus shifts to ensuring quality of life

MOH plans include beefing up community care initiatives, topping up funds that help seniors

This year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will spend a big chunk of its budget on beefing up community care schemes, investing in manpower and infrastructure, and topping up funds that help seniors stay independent well into their twilight years.

These measures encapsulate the ministry's "Three Beyonds" strategy, which aims to shift the focus from just providing healthcare to ensuring quality of life.

The strategy was first mentioned by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in last year's Budget debate. It refers to going beyond the hospital to the community, shifting the focus from quality to value, and moving from healthcare to health.

Giving an update on the strategy in Parliament yesterday, Mr Gan said that spending in the intermediate and long-term care sector has nearly quadrupled in the past decade.

This sector encompasses nursing homes, senior rehabilitation and daycare services, as well as home care.

Spending in this sector stood at $1.3 billion between 2007 and 2011, but jumped to $5.1 billion between 2012 and 2016.

Between 2010 and 2015, overall national health expenditure rose from $10.9 billion to $18.9 billion.

"These investments reflect our priority to anchor care firmly in the community," said Mr Gan.

"As we continue to invest in community care, we also need to bring social and healthcare services closer to better serve our people."

Opening yesterday's debate on the ministry's budget, Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said: "Perhaps it should not be so much about moving beyond one or the other, but about embracing and ensuring that Singaporeans can enjoy health services that are of good quality and good value."

Mr Gan also spoke of the need to reorganise the public healthcare system beyond what has been done in the past year to create "synergy and deliver better care".

Last year, MOH announced that the six public healthcare clusters would be streamlined into three.

Now, it is also setting up a new national supply chain agency for healthcare that will be in charge of procurement and resources across all three clusters.

"(This will) achieve economies of scale, create greater synergy, develop new capabilities and evolve innovative supply chain solutions," Mr Gan said.

"This will also help to mitigate cost increases and bring greater convenience to patients."

On top of that, the ministry's Office of Healthcare Transformation will look to experiment with "game-changing ideas", he added.

For starters, it will work with the National University Health System to test the ideas at a "health empowering campus" in Alexandra Hospital in the second half of this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'Focus shifts to ensuring quality of life'. Print Edition | Subscribe