Parliament: Key shifts needed to keep healthcare system sustainable, says Gan Kim Yong

Visitors waiting at the Acute Care and Emergency (A&E) centre of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. PHOTO: MYPAPER

SINGAPORE - Last year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced three key shifts his ministry was pushing for: beyond healthcare to health; beyond hospital to community and beyond quality to value.

During the parliamentary debate on Thursday (March 9) on the Health Ministry's Budget of about $10.7 billion for this year, he fleshed out actions to implement those key shifts.

He said these moves are needed to ensure that the healthcare system here continues to be sustainable inspite of the rapidly ageing population which would inevitably require more healthcare services.

Singapore has reduced by half premature deaths from heart disease and stroke between 2000 and 2015. But this could be eroded, he said, with rising obesity and diabetes rates, as these are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Hence, the importance of the war on diabetes. The focus for this, he said, is healthy living and prevention, screening and follow-up, and disease management.

Expanding on this, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said a successful pilot by the National University Hospital (NUH) and the National Healthcare Group to reduce kidney failure will be rolled out to all polyclinics from next month.

Early results show that 30 per cent of patients had improved kidney function while 60 per cent did not have their kidneys deteriorate. This could significantly reduce the number of people suffering from kidney failure and requiring either a transplant or dialysis.

From Sept 1, MOH will introduce Enhanced Screen for Life where Singaporeans aged 40 years and older can screen for five ailments - diabetes, high blood and cholesterol levels, colorectal and cervical cancers - for $5. This includes consultation if the tests prove positive. It is free for Pioneer Generation Singaporeans and $2 for those who have the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) card.

Minister of State Chee Hong Tat said: "Early detection and intervention are important in preventing diabetes and managing the disease."

Mr Gan also gave an update on efforts to boost physical infrastructure. Since 2012, 2,500 more hospital beds have been added.

By 2020, there will be three more hospitals, three medical centres and six more polyclinics as well as several thousands more nursing, palliative and home care places.

Over the past five years, the healthcare workforce has grown by 23,000 or 33 per cent. Another 9,000 will be needed over the next three years.

On the issue of affordability, which was raised by several MPs, Mr Gan said more than 500,000 claims were made against MediShield Life last year, a 47 per cent increase over 2015 before the national insurance scheme covered every single Singaporean and permanent resident.

He said: "Claims by older Singaporeans aged above 65 increased even more at 73 per cent form 124,000 to 215,000."

Many of these older people previously did not have insurance coverage.

Claims from seniors jumped from $181 million in 2015 to $343 million last year.

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