Singapore Budget 2015: Keeping it affordable to age gracefully in community

SINGAPORE - Private operators can now place bids to provide government-subsidised home and community care services for Singapore's growing elderly population, said Senior Minister of State Amy Khor on Thursday.

Previously, private operators could provide these services but not under government-subsidised rates.

The move would help Singapore scale up capacity and provide affordable care for a greying population, Dr Khor told Parliament during the debate on the Health Ministry's Budget.

"Operators will be selected based on care models and affordable fees," she said.

-- GRAPHIC: MINISTRY OF HEALTH

She was addressing questions of several MPs including Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) and Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC) who asked what measures were in place to provide adequate facilities for an ageing population.

This was an issue given "anecdotal feedback of long waiting lists at certain centres", said Ms Lee.

The Government will also be asking for more in future tenders.

It will be requesting for "bundled services" in proposals submitted by either voluntary welfare organisations or private ones, for home and community care services.

Recently, the Government solicited for proposals for a senior care centre at Ci Yuan CC where they had to provide home care services out of the centre as well.

This would "develop providers who can provide a more comprehensive suite of services to care for our seniors at home or at eldercare centres", Dr Khor noted.

Opening subsidised services to private operators is part of an ongoing effort to ramp up the number of home care places available from the current 6,500 to 10,000 in 2020.

Day care places will be increased from 1,000 to 6,200 in 2020 while an additional 1,000 home palliative care places would be added to up the number to 6,000 by 2020.

Dr Khor said the Government will also pay close attention to not only quality but quantity of care. Last year, the Ministry of Health announced the development of new home-based, community and palliative care guidelines. The ministry has since conducted focus group sessions with providers, patients and caregivers to refine a draft of these guidelines. The confirmed guidelines will be announced at a later date.

Ms Tin had also asked about the adequacy of manpower in the health sector, especially in the area of rehabilitation, given the ageing population. Dr Khor said that between 2010 and 2014, the number of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists in public healthcare and step-down care sectors has grown about 40 per cent to more than 1,200.

Intakes in physiotherapy and occupational therapy in Nanyang Polytechnic, as well as for speech therapy courses at the National University of Singapore have increased, she said.

kashc@sph.com.sg