From The Backbench

Budget debate: MPs call for review on Covid-19 vaccination scheme, more public education on mental health

Nominated MP Tan Yia Swam (left) and Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak.
Nominated MP Tan Yia Swam (left) and Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak.PHOTOS: GOV.SG

Nominated MP Tan Yia Swam

Educate public on mental health

Many members of the public may want to help when they see others behaving oddly, but may not feel able to, said Dr Tan.

"We need to have more schemes in place for the general public to recognise early signs of mental illnesses, and how to assist as a first responder," she said.

Dr Tan also noted that mental resilience, proper sleeping habits and safe Internet use are related to mental health and should be taught in schools, and to adults as well.


Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC)

Review national vaccination scheme

There is a comprehensive national vaccination programme for children here, but not for adults and the elderly, Dr Lim noted.

Many Singaporeans do not get vaccinations regularly unless they need to for travel or work, even though an illness like influenza can lead to complications and sudden death, he said.

Dr Lim suggested a review of the national programme, adding that more should be done to promote awareness of immunisation.


Non-constituency MP Hazel Poa

Improve insurance portability


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As a person ages and develops medical conditions, it becomes "practically impossible" to change one's Integrated Plan (IP) provider as the conditions will be excluded from cover, Ms Poa said.

Insurers may entice younger people with lower premiums and hike them when they are older, she said.

Ms Poa asked if the Government will consider making it a condition for IP providers to allow policy holders to switch providers without imposing additional conditions.


Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC)

Address reasons why health workers quit


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While the recently announced pay rise for public healthcare workers will help address the shortage of nurses and caregivers, demand for nurses is expected to increase further as Singapore ages, said Ms Mariam.

She wanted to know what was being done to enhance career paths for healthcare workers and address the top reasons they quit.

This could include a review of shift structures and giving more support to nurses, she suggested.


DENISE PHUA (JALAN BESAR GRC)

Coordinate community initiatives better

DENISE PHUA (JALAN BESAR GRC)
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Ms Phua noted that on the long weekend before Chinese New Year, she met groups distributing lunch bento boxes to the same group of rental residents. She said: "A common sight on the ground, especially in rental housing estates, is an overlap of services such as free distribution of food, masks and groceries; health screening and home cleaning."

She asked if there was an effective way of coordinating such initiatives so there is less wastage and better allocation of precious resources.


JOAN PEREIRA (TANJONG PAGAR GRC)

Have mini social service offices

JOAN PEREIRA (TANJONG PAGAR GRC)
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To make it easier for families and people in need to seek help, Ms Pereira suggested mini social service offices (SSOs) in areas with rental blocks, where most residents who need help reside.

"The mini SSOs can pull in the necessary resources from the neighbourhood or nearby precincts to help the varied needs of these vulnerable families and provide them with holistic assistance," she said.

"Help can be more targeted as they cater to these few rental blocks."


ZHULKARNAIN ABDUL RAHIM (CHUA CHU KANG GRC)

Look beyond family violence


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Economic hardships are a trigger for more abuse in a relationship, Mr Zhulkarnain said.

"During this pandemic, many survivors of domestic violence feel that they can no longer seek refuge at the home of a friend or relative, for fear they could expose them to the virus," he added. He asked if the task force on family violence would look beyond family violence to include violence against intimate partners and vulnerable groups like domestic workers and the elderly.


MELVIN YONG (RADIN MAS)

Help couples facing marital distress

MELVIN YONG (RADIN MAS)
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Mr Yong asked if the ministry can examine ways to help couples identify early signs of marriage distress and help resolve such marital issues earlier.

"I worry that the stress and anxiety from the prolonged pandemic might cause a further deterioration of relations in unstable marriages," he said.

In cases where it is not possible to save the marriage, Mr Yong asked the ministry what its plans were to mitigate the impact of divorce on children.

SAKTIANDI SUPAAT (BISHAN-TOA-PAYOH GRC)

Ways to increase public transport usage

SAKTIANDI SUPAAT (BISHAN-TOA-PAYOH GRC)
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To encourage higher usage of public transport, Mr Saktiandi suggested that transport operators explore issuing an integrated mobility ticket, which could offer reduced rates for transport services such as taxi, car-sharing and rental car services.

E-tickets for large events like football games and music concerts can also be linked so that commuters will not have to pay for MRT and bus rides to and from those events, he added. The Government could also look into linking more existing feeder bus routes with MRT stations, especially the new ones.


YEO WAN LING (PASIR-RIS-PUNGGOL GRC)

More flexibility for point-to-point drivers

YEO WAN LING (PASIR-RIS-PUNGGOL GRC)
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Ms Yeo suggested that the authorities allow point-to-point drivers to wait in and around taxi stand bays and drop-off points at night when there is less traffic on the road. Currently, only taxis are allowed to do so.

She said this would reduce the need for drivers to drive around aimlessly, wasting fuel and time, amid reduced demand for rides and higher petrol duties.

"We need to practise empathy, and indeed sympathy, towards the plight of our fellow Singaporeans."


ANG WEI NENG (WEST COAST GRC)

Better access to Tuas mega port

ANG WEI NENG (WEST COAST GRC)
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Mr Ang called for more transport options for maritime workers commuting to the Tuas mega port, which is located at the extreme end of western Singapore.

He noted that the area is still relatively unconnected compared with the exiting city terminals at Tanjong Pagar and Keppel, which will progressively shift their operations to Tuas.

He suggested that the Tuas West Extension MRT line be extended to the Tuas mega port.


DENNIS TAN (HOUGANG)

More public education on shared paths

DENNIS TAN (HOUGANG)
PHOTO: GOV.SG

Mr Tan said there has not been much change in terms of people's awareness of how to properly use shared paths, despite the authorities' efforts.

He urged the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to do more to make sure the general public - including the "aunties and uncles who may get upset with people ringing the bell when cyclists are passing by" - also get the message.

"I would like to implore LTA to continue to work on this public education as well as consistent enforcement," he said.