Parliament Debate on ministries' budgets: Health

Central national pharmacy to deliver medicines to patients

For retiree Lee Meow Khin, 72, getting his medication delivered saves him from having to carry multiple bottles home on public transport. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
For retiree Lee Meow Khin, 72, getting his medication delivered saves him from having to carry multiple bottles home on public transport. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Getting his medicine delivered to his home has been a tremendous help for retiree Lee Meow Khin, 72, after he fell ill last year.

With several months' worth of medication prescribed, getting it delivered saved him the trouble of having to carry multiple bottles home on public transport.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is setting up a national pharmacy to consolidate medication delivery across public healthcare institutions from next year.

This came about after the Covid-19 pandemic hastened the acceptance of telemedicine as well as medicine deliveries, paving the way for a wider roll-out of these services.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Health, said in Parliament that the National Central Fill Pharmacy (NCFP) will consolidate medications across multiple providers in a central location.

These will then be delivered to the patients. The new service will improve the access to pharmacy services, including for seniors with mobility needs, and support new care models such as telemedicine, he said.

Patients like Mr Lee, who are under the care of more than one doctor from different public healthcare institutions and have multiple prescriptions, will be able to get their medication orders delivered as a single parcel.

In March last year, Mr Lee had to have a gastrectomy to remove his stomach at the Singapore General Hospital due to stomach cancer. He later developed constipation and acid reflux.

He was prescribed many bottles of medications, which would have been too heavy for him to carry home.

For those who receive such gastrectomies, the oesophagus, which connects the throat to the stomach, is instead connected to the small intestine so that the patient is still able to eat.

In November 2020, Mr Lee was also diagnosed with lymphoma at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and was prescribed even more medication, along with his chemotherapy treatment.

"The centre was able to deliver the medication, so I didn't have to make a special trip down just to collect it, which helps to save time," said Mr Lee, who travels to NCCS at least five to six times each month for treatment and check-ups.

He added that the delivery service is beneficial for patients like him, who may be frail or tired after a chemotherapy session.

Not having to queue and carry the medication home eases the process.

The new medicine delivery model will be rolled out in phases. The first phase, which will be ready in early next year, will benefit all polyclinic patients taking chronic disease medications.

Patients from the public hospitals will be put on this new plan in phases after that.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2021, with the headline 'Central national pharmacy to deliver medicines to patients'. Subscribe