Palliative care becoming more important in Singapore's ageing society: Ong Ye Kung

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung highlighted the growing importance of palliative care in Singapore as the population ages. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Towards the end of his parents' lives, Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung said, a palliative nurse was "the most important pillar of support for the family".

"She could explain what we were to expect. She could explain how my mother or my father was feeling, and generally put us in a much better place. My regret was that I could not bring my parents home on both occasions, and they died in hospitals," he said.

Mr Ong was highlighting the growing importance of palliative care in Singapore as the population ages.

He was speaking as the guest of honour at a virtual fund-raising dinner organised by Dover Park Hospice on Friday (Oct 15).

In illustrating the role of palliative care, Mr Ong cited the experience of a late client of Dover Park Hospice, Mr Lim Ah Tee, who requested a terminal discharge from Tan Tock Seng Hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Mr Lim fulfilled his wish to spend his final days at home, with his family members beside him," he said.

Dover Park Hospice held its annual dinner virtually for the second consecutive year on Friday, raising more than $900,000.

About 320 guests attended the annual event, which raises funds to provide palliative care to patients and caregivers, especially those from low-income families.

The event included a four-course Peranakan dinner that was delivered to guests, as well as performances by local artistes, including Gurmit Singh and Hossan Leong.

During his address, Mr Ong also noted the stigma surrounding the topic of palliative care in Singapore.

"As an Asian society, it is a sensitive topic to broach with families and have a delicate conversation about death. But it is important to do so, because it is better for the dying if we understand their wishes, their hopes, and to prepare them, and to prepare ourselves," he said.

Mr Ong added: "As Singapore ages, the number of patients in Singapore requiring holistic palliative care will also increase. Having high-quality palliative care is therefore not just a public health priority, but also a key pillar of a compassionate healthcare system, the path to a dignified peaceful death."

He commended efforts by the hospice to expand its services, such as offering home-care services targeting key chronic diseases such as dementia and end-stage organ failure.

The chairman of the hospice, Associate Professor Jeremy Lim, appealed to donors to support the hospice's plans for the upcoming year.

He said: "Next year, we will double our bed capacity from 50 to 100 beds, with the attendant increases in expenditure.

"We are also augmenting our home-care services to enable more patients to live their last days in the comfort of home, in the presence of their loved ones.

"The needs are great and we can do more with your support."

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