Budget debate: MOH framework to pave smoother road to rehab

The framework is part of ongoing work to improve routine clinical care services despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The framework is part of ongoing work to improve routine clinical care services despite the Covid-19 pandemic.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Patients will soon have better access to rehabilitation care, particularly in the community setting, through a new framework developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Announcing the National One-Rehab framework at his ministry's committee of supply debate on Friday (March 5), Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Janil Puthucheary, said the framework is part of ongoing work to improve routine clinical care services despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added that the framework will "ensure that our population has timely access to the right level of rehabilitation care".

MOH said that the framework, which was developed with practitioners in public hospitals, polyclinics and the community care sector, will be progressively piloted in these institutions from the second half of this year.

It has three main aims.

First, it aims to assist therapists and patients in tracking progress towards defined outcomes and rehabilitation goals along their journey.

"The individualised One-Rehab care plan 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.

This will help therapists and service providers to better plan and facilitate care for patients, said MOH.

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

For example, patients with stable musculoskeletal conditions such as lower back pain, who do not require surgery or complex interventions, will be able to receive rehabilitation care at the polyclinics and community-based facilities, such as senior care centres and day rehab centres.

The ministry said that this will reduce the need for an appointment at acute hospitals, which can then focus their capacities to attend to patients with more complex rehabilitation care needs.

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

Director of allied health at SingHealth Community Hospitals and the former head of physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital, Ms Tan Bee Yee, said that rehabilitative care is essential for a holistic recovery.

"This is going to be increasingly so as the population ages and more people are living with chronic diseases," she said.

This point is well understood by retiree Christine Grace, 79, who suffered from severe pain in her lower back and legs in October last year as a result of degeneration of her lower spine and shoulder.

After about five weeks of physiotherapy at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, however, her condition improved dramatically.

"I can stand on my own feet now... 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.

It is not just seniors who benefit from such rehabilitative care services either.

IT manager Gilbert Menezes, 49, could barely move his arm after straining an old shoulder injury in January.

"It was excruciating... the pain was so bad it made me tear up," he said.

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... seek help, and with physiotherapy, things can get better," he said.

Ms Tan said the new framework will help practitioners improve the care they provide to patients.

She said: "If we are all operating in silos, it's very hard to tell (how we can improve)... But that's where this national One-Rehab aims to do, bring everyone together, have a common language in tracking patient outcomes, so we are able to learn from one another, their best practice, then translate that to how we provide rehabilitation for our patients."