Shifting healthcare focus to preventive care is difficult but right thing to do, says PM Lee

The Government has said that it wants everyone to enrol with a family physician from next year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Shifting the healthcare system's focus from the reactive treatment of diseases when they surface to a more preventive one that relies on regular screenings will be a huge challenge but is the right direction to take, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (April 24).

"It will demand considerable commitment and effort from many stakeholders - not just from the Government," he said at the Singapore General Hospital's Lecture and Formal Dinner 2022, which was held at Shangri-La Singapore.

"It calls for a mindset shift and a fundamental reorientation of how our whole system works," he added of the overhaul.

As Singapore assesses its healthcare system post-Covid-19, the Government has said that it wants everyone to enrol with a family physician from next year, so that each person has a doctor who is familiar with his healthcare risk factors.

This will nip illnesses in the bud and keep more people healthy and out of the hospital, which is particularly important as Singapore confronts issues related to an ageing population and a possible increase of chronic diseases.

PM Lee said it will also lighten the burden on hospitals, making healthcare expenditure more sustainable, adding that it is "clearly the right strategic direction to take".

"(It) will shift decisively from hospital-centric care to a patient-centred preventive care. Focus on healthcare outcomes, starting early while the person is still healthy and tackling illness at its root, before it progresses to the point of needing treatment," he said.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is due to release in the second half of the year a White Paper on what has been called the Healthier SG initiative.

The broad-based major strategy shift was  announced earlier this year during the Budget debate, with MOH saying that Singapore needed to now turn its attention to a far more challenging pandemic of longer-term, chronic illnesses.

One of these is diabetes. 

Singapore leads the world in diabetes-induced kidney failure, with  5.7 new patients diagnosed with the condition daily and more than 8,500 dialysis patients here. 

A greater focus on preventive care would enable hospitals here to focus on complex conditions and emergency cases, while reducing healthcare expenditure, which is already expected to triple in the coming decade to almost $27 billion in 2030, MOH said. 

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