A charity which runs a chain of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics will, from Jan 1, waive the nominal fees charged for medication and services for Pioneer Generation card holders, thus enabling them to enjoy the services for free.
Mr Toh Soon Huat, chairman of the Sian Chay Medical Institution, announced this yesterday at the launch of a book tracing the history of the 114-year-old institution.
The institution, founded in 1901, has been providing free consultations to all, but caters especially to senior citizens and the needy from low-income families at its clinics and wellness centres.
While consultations are free, a nominal fee of between $2 and $10 is charged for medicine and services like acupuncture and tui na - a Chinese therapeutic massage.
But Mr Toh said at the book launch at the Raffles Town Club yesterday that from Jan 1, it will waive such charges for Pioneer Generation card holders.
This is possible because of a $1 million donation from the Lee Foundation about a year ago.
"The foundation indicated that the money be used to defray TCM expenses of the pioneer generation at our clinics," added Mr Toh, 56, a former businessman who has led Sian Chay since 2008.
With a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the Government, he estimates that the total of $2 million will be sufficient to cover the cost of visits by pioneer generation patients for the next three years.
Those from the pioneer generation - citizens aged 65 and above in 2014 - made up more than half the nearly 140,000 patients who visited its chain of clinics this year.
The number of visitors at Sian Chay's clinics annually has risen steeply since 2008, when it was 3,000 at its lone clinic at its Geylang headquarters.
More clinics are being planned.
Mr Toh said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will open its newest clinic in Jalan Kayu next week. This will be followed by two in Geylang - for treatment of depression and insomnia; and for orthopaedic cases.
These specialised clinics are in addition to a cancer treatment centre that opened this August in Geylang.
There are plans for new clinics in Ang Mo Kio, Marsiling and Woodlands. These would bring the number of Sian Chay clinics to 14 by the end of next year. "My target is 20 clinics to cover most of the heartland in Singapore because the elderly and the poor can't afford to travel far, even if the medical treatment is free," he said, adding that he aims to do this by 2018.
Sian Chay has some 80 full-time staff, including physicians and therapists, and needs an annual operation budget of over $3 million.
"Fortunately, our work has received great support both from the Government and private donors, who had given generously," he said.
The Story Of Sian Chay Medical Institution, launched by Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Koh Poh Koon, is available at bookshops at $18, excluding GST.