First private firm to join government care scheme

Programme helps seniors make easier transition between hospital and home

The first private sector firm has come on board a government scheme to help seniors make an easier transition between hospital and home.

Active Global Specialised Caregivers, a 31/2-year-old local company, will start caring for people under the Health Ministry's interim caregiver service from next month.

Its rates, said founder Yorelle Kalika, will be comparable to those charged by the existing providers, which are either voluntary welfare organisations or social enterprises.

For instance, Ms Kalika said, Active Global will charge subsidised patients $110 per caregiving shift. In comparison, social enterprise NTUC Health is charging $675 per six days, which works out to $112.50 per shift.

Interim caregivers usually work in 12-hour shifts to provide basic care, such as doing simple exercises or helping their clients with eating or bathing.

Fees quoted are typically before applying other government subsidises, which can be as much as 80 per cent, depending on a person's income level.

The interim caregiver scheme was set up in 2013 to cater to the growing group of people who were well enough to be discharged from hospital, but were unable to cope on their own at home.

This is where caregivers - who are usually not professional nurses but have undergone simple training - step in until more permanent arrangements can be made.

People are generally referred to the programme by hospitals, with about six in 10 families eventually hiring a foreign domestic worker to take over the caregiving of the family member.

Three in 10 do not require any additional care, while the remaining one in 10 will either arrange for home care, engage senior daycare services, or move the patient into a nursing home.

The interim programme, which is managed by the Agency for Integrated Care, has helped more than 3,000 patients between 2013 and this year.

In addition, Ms Kalika said, her company will be offering subsidised home personal care services at about $22 per hour.

These services, which tend to cost between $22 and $30 an hour, are for people who need help with tasks such as eating or bathing - and reduce the need for a live-in maid.

Ms Kalika said Active Global, which started out providing permanent live-in caregiver services, is well equipped to fulfil its new responsibilities.

"We are quite able to scale up in terms of capacity. I want to attract local healthcare assistants," she said.

Ms Kalika hopes to hire 100 such staff by the end of next year, and has the facilities to train them if the need arises.

She added: "There is no question about the demand; the demand will be there."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline First private firm to join government care scheme. Subscribe