Parliament Debate on ministries' budgets: Health

Boosting rehab care services in the community

Mr Gilbert Menezes, who strained his shoulder earlier this year, working with senior physiotherapist Pradha Rajoo at Yishun Polyclinic. People like him will have access to an expanded scope of rehabilitation services in polyclinics and community-base
Mr Gilbert Menezes, who strained his shoulder earlier this year, working with senior physiotherapist Pradha Rajoo at Yishun Polyclinic. People like him will have access to an expanded scope of rehabilitation services in polyclinics and community-based facilities under the new National One-Rehab framework. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

In October last year, the degeneration in her spine became so bad that retiree Christine Grace could not get out of bed, let alone walk.

But after about five weeks of physiotherapy at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, the 79-year-old's condition improved dramatically, and she is now able to get around without help.

"I'm very happy, very cheerful, and I just go about my daily business. Without the physiotherapy, I would be living in pain," she said.

Patients like Ms Grace will soon have access to an expanded scope of rehabilitation services in polyclinics and community-based facilities such as senior care centres and day rehabilitation centres under a new framework.

Announcing the National One-Rehab framework at the debate on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) budget yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said the framework will "ensure that our population has timely access to the right level of rehabilitation care".

MOH said that the framework - developed with practitioners in public hospitals, polyclinics and the community care sector - will be progressively tried out from the second half of the year.

Its three aims are first, to assist therapists and patients in tracking their progress towards defined outcomes and rehabilitation goals.

"(It) will enable therapists across different settings to have access to patients' care progress information, which enables them to work together to support patients as they transit across care settings," said MOH in a statement.

Second, it aims to make the process of rehabilitation clearer by providing standardised criteria for rehabilitation, thus helping therapists and service providers to better plan and facilitate care for patients, said the ministry.

Third, it aims to improve patients' access to an expanded scope of community rehabilitation services.

The ministry said this will reduce the need for an appointment at acute hospitals, allowing the hospitals to focus their capacities on attending to patients with more complex rehabilitation care needs.

Dr Janil said: "Under this framework, patients will have improved access to community-based rehabilitation and benefit from expanded capacity and capabilities."

It is not just seniors who benefit from such rehabilitative care services. Mr Gilbert Menezes, 49, could barely move his arm after straining an old shoulder injury in January.

But after just one month of physiotherapy at Yishun Polyclinic, he said, the pain fell by almost 90 per cent, allowing him to resume doing the things he loves such as carrying his eight-year-old daughter.

"Physiotherapy is for anybody who cannot do what they want to do," said the IT manager. "Seek help and, with physiotherapy, things can get better."

Ms Tan Bee Yee, director of allied health at SingHealth Community Hospitals and former head of physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital, said the new framework will help improve care for patients.

She added: "If we are all operating in silos, it's very hard to tell (how we can improve). This National One-Rehab (framework) aims to bring everyone together, have a common language in tracking patient outcomes, so we are able to learn from one another. We can then translate that into how we provide rehabilitation for our patients."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2021, with the headline Boosting rehab care services in the community. Subscribe