Community care integral to healthcare system, says Heng

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore is ageing rapidly and by 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above, up from one in seven today.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore is ageing rapidly and by 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above, up from one in seven today.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Focus shifting beyond hospitals to caring for patients closer to homes

Community hospitals that provide intermediate care are an "integral part" of Singapore's healthcare system and will play an even larger role in the future, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

"Over the years, community hospitals have been addressing the healthcare needs in the community," he added.

These hospitals, such as St Luke's Hospital, Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital, St Andrew's Community Hospital and Ren Ci Hospital, addressed care gaps even before the Government started building up the intermediate-and long-term care sector, he said.

Speaking at the St Luke's Hospital charity dinner held at St Regis hotel yesterday, Mr Heng said Singapore is ageing rapidly and by 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above, up from one in seven today.

He added that the Government has been strengthening the healthcare system by building new hospitals and polyclinics, expanding home-and centre-based care services, and introducing various schemes such as MediShield Life, the Pioneer and Merdeka Generation packages, and the Community Health Assist Scheme to make healthcare more affordable.

Singapore's healthcare expenditures have also been growing.

Mr Heng said: "Between 2010 and 2016, our national healthcare expenditure almost doubled from $11 billion to about $21 billion. We have also more than doubled the amount of direct government subsidies given to Singaporeans from $2.6 billion to $5.6 billion over the same period.

"Therefore, we need to plan ahead to ensure that our healthcare expenditures are sustainable."

 
 
 
 

However, the episodic care provided by acute hospitals cannot adequately address the rising incidence of chronic disease, he added.

"We are also shifting the focus of healthcare delivery beyond hospitals to the community. Our aim is to deliver care closer to homes and in an environment that patients are familiar with."

The Health Ministry's efforts to empower Singaporeans to take charge of their own health are "beginning to bear fruit", he said.

"Early indications suggest that many Singaporeans are adopting healthier lifestyles. Based on the 2018 National Nutrition Survey, Singaporeans' diet quality has improved. We are eating more whole grain, fruit and vegetables, as well as substituting saturated fat with unsaturated fat."

Other efforts include the expansion of aged care services to meet the increasingly complex needs of seniors and strengthening support for caregivers who are "often unsung heroes who enable our seniors to age with dignity", Mr Heng said.

He added that the Health Ministry launched a Caregiver Support Action Plan this year, which outlines initiatives to provide financial and workplace support, improve respite options and support caregivers' socio-emotional needs.

"The support of everyone - from public healthcare institutions, private care providers to community partners - has enabled Singapore to achieve a world-class healthcare system.

"The Government will continue encouraging Singaporeans to lead active and healthy lives, and in developing a sustainable healthcare system for our future generations."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 21, 2019, with the headline 'Community care integral to healthcare system, says Heng'. Print Edition | Subscribe