Budget debate: More than 350,000 Singapore residents have received first Covid-19 jab, says Gan Kim Yong

About 215,000 have received their second doses.
About 215,000 have received their second doses.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Steady progress has been made in Singapore's vaccination programme, with more than 350,000 Singapore residents, including around 80 per cent of healthcare workers, already receiving their first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine as of Thursday (March 4).

About 215,000 have received their second dose, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament on Friday (March 5) during the debate on his ministry's budget.

More than 40,000 seniors aged 70 and above have also received their first dose and the Health Ministry will be rolling out these jabs to seniors aged 60 and above from the end of this month.

With vaccination operations critical for Singapore this year, one vaccination centre will be built in every town from mid-March.

The Covid-19 situation remains stable in the country, Mr Gan said, with one to two new community cases each day.

As the country continues to navigate out of the pandemic, longer-term healthcare issues, such as providing more accessible, affordable and better care, as well as stretching the health dollar, will remain key.

For instance, primary care will be strengthened, with 12 new polyclinics built, bringing the total number of polyclinics to 32 by 2030.

To make healthcare more accessible to seniors, community nursing teams have been expanded to cover 29 regions across the island since September 2020, with a total of 185 community nursing posts.

The Government has also been spending more on healthcare given the country's ageing population, Mr Gan said.

Its share of national health expenditure increased from 40 per cent in 2013 to 46 per cent in 2018.

While expenditure is expected to rise in the future, the Government will have to be prudent on how to allocate these resources to ensure that support is targeted to benefit those who need it most, Mr Gan said.

The Government will also continue to improve the healthcare system's cost-effectiveness and efficiency, Mr Gan assured.

For instance, the Agency for Care Effectiveness - set up by MOH in 2015 - has allowed the Government to save $300 million since 2016. This has helped to benefit more than 375,000 patients.

The Agency for Logistics Procurement and Supply has also managed to save around $180 million in two years by driving economies of scale through group procurement.

Mr Gan also stressed that lower income households will be supported and healthcare must be kept affordable, especially for lower income patients.

He noted that the amount of subsidies received per household for the lowest income quintile has increased by over 70 per cent from 2013 to 2018.

Subsidies will also be more targeted, with those for acute hospitals to be aligned to per capita household income instead of relying on personal income, Mr Gan said.

This is more reflective of the patient's needs, he said.

Finally, personal responsibility remains critical to managing healthcare costs, and all Singaporeans should attend regular health screenings, get vaccinated and adopt healthy living habits.

Covid-19 vaccination progress

As at March 4

First dose 350,000 Singapore residents, including eight in 10 healthcare workers and more than 40,000 seniors aged 70 and above

Second dose 215,000

From mid-March

One vaccination centre in every town

From end-March

Vaccinations for those aged 60 to 69 will be rolled out

Covid-19 testing capacity

More than 60,000 daily