After seeing how a palliative-care doctor took care of his wife while she was dying of cancer in 2011, general practitioner Melvin Goh decided to move into the field himself - one which addresses patients' emotional and spiritual needs, as well as medical ones.
The 55-year-old took up an award by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) last year. MOH paid for 70 per cent of the course fees of his graduate diploma in palliative medicine.
In an effort to expand the pool of doctors specialising in intermediate and long-term care (ILTC), MOH yesterday announced that the Community Care - GP Partnership Training Award will now cover geriatric and family medicine as well.
"There is a growing number of patients with more complex medical needs," said AIC chief executive Jason Cheah.
"The geriatric or palliative care skills that GPs acquire through the award mean they can continue their practice and bring new expertise to meaningful causes outside of their clinics and into the community and patients' homes."
GPs who take up the award must be sponsored by an institution owned by the Government or operated by a voluntary welfare organisation. They must then provide their services to the institution.
Dr Goh now spends three afternoons a week at the Singapore Cancer Society, where his experience in caring for his wife helps him empathise with patients and their kin.
"Even though I had all my knowledge as a doctor, I felt hopeless when caring for my wife. I didn't know what to do. I felt called by God to move into this area when I realised there are many patients and caregivers in our situation."
The addition of the two courses to the award was announced alongside the ILTC Manpower Development Awards.
Dr Goh was among 77 doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators and students who received study awards and scholarships in the community care sector.
Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said: "The development plans for the community care sector can succeed only if we are able to recruit more staff and enhance their quality to provide higher standards of care."