Speech by Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary for Health At the opening ceremony for National Occupational Therapy Conference 2013 on 26 Oct 2013

Ms Florence Cheong, President of the Singapore Association of Occupational Therapists

Colleagues, friends,

Ladies & Gentlemen

1. Good morning. I am happy to join you today at this 4th National Occupational Therapy Conference.

2. As Occupational Therapists, you work with clients to help them achieve the highest possible level of independence in the roles they play, through purposeful activities. As the healthcare needs of our population grow and change, the work of the OT and your collaboration with other healthcare professionals will become vital for more Singaporeans to lead a productive and meaningful life.

3. I am encouraged by the focus and the theme of this year’s conference “Collaboration and Innovation towards Quality Care”. The emphasis is on the team not the individual. Singapore is currently undergoing the challenging process of transforming its healthcare system. It is not at all bad. But we need to re-fashion and update it, because of what we can see looming on the horizon. We have built an excellent acute care sector, where sick or injured patients come in for intense intervention and are discharged largely ready to resume their lives. As more of us age and also acquire various lifestyle diseases, much more effort will need to be placed on primary care and care in the intermediate and long term care sectors. Even within the acute sector, working in a team among different healthcare professionals will take on greater urgency. An elderly patient with a fracture or one who has suffered a stroke will need intervention from our physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists well before discharge and for some time after that. Work is no longer sequential – “throw the bear over the wall” – but need to be concurrent. I am reminded of us when we were discussing how we might design an integrated care pathway for hip fracture patients. As it turned out, it was not just consistency in applying evidence-based procedures during the acute hospital episode, but how the patient would smoothly transit into rehabilitation that would determine the quality of outcomes.

4. I hope to see more collaboration among our healthcare professionals to innovate and develop the new models of care that will support integrated and transitional care from the hospital to home and community. These developments are vital for better care and quality of life for our patients.

5. The Eastern Health Alliance, which is one of our regional health systems, has a Transitional Convalescent Facility care team at Grace Corner. Changi General Hospital already work closely with its partner and neighbour St Andrew’s Community Hospital for care of its discharged patients. However, for some who need slow-stream rehabilitation before they can make a smooth transition to home, the Transitional Convalescent Facility at Grace Corner provides that bridge. Occupational Therapists work with Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Dietitians and Pharmacists to provide interim rehabilitative or convalescent care to patients to regain maximum functionality and reintegration back in their own homes and community. This timely transitional support has helped post-discharge patients and their caregivers manage their condition holistically and improve their outcomes at the critical times of the recovery phase, to prevent a deterioration of their physical and mental condition and care.

6. The Occupational Therapy department at the Institute of Mental Health or IMH runs three outpatient rehabilitation centres. These are aptly named OcTAVE Centres, or “Occupational Therapy: Activities, Vocation and Empowerment” to affirm the progression and improvement of function and life. The OcTAVE team comprises Occupational Therapists, Therapy Assistants, Medical Social Workers and Case Managers to provide ongoing training for outpatients who are coping with mental health issues. Besides providing vocational training, community living skills and functional re-training, these centres also work closely with St Andrew’s Community Services to transit their clients to supported employment. Such collaboration has enabled those with mental health issues to overcome societal barriers and optimise their potential for functional and independent living. Indeed the OcTAVE team won the National Healthcare Group’s Excellence in Action Award this year.

7. Another example of innovation and collaboration is at the National University Hospital, where OTs, Doctors and Optometrists are involved in a pilot project called the “Low Vision Enabling (LOVE) Programme". Patients with low vision are provided with a comprehensive low vision assessment and prescribed suitable optical devices by Optometrists and Occupational Therapists or OTs. The OT in the team refers them to resources in the community where these patients can be empowered to function in the community as optimally as possible. Such innovative approaches give Singaporeans with low vision a chance to improve their quality of life and maximise their daily functional ability.

8. On the educational front, MOH has worked with various healthcare training institutes to increase and expand the training pipeline for our healthcare professions. For example, at the Nanyang Polytechnic School of Health Sciences, the Occupational Therapy student intake was raised to more than 80 students this year. I know OTs are concerned about educational pathways.  As the OT population grows and as demand for OT services grow, how we educate future generations of OTs will necessarily evolve. MOH will work closely with stakeholders on this.  Beyond formal education, professional development for OTs and by OTs is very important.  For OTs who are present here in this conference, your mentorship and guidance to the current and future generations of young Occupational Therapists are extremely important and critical to develop our Occupational Therapists to be professionally skilled and prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

9. I encourage all who are present at this conference to continue the tradition of continuous teaching and learning and to structure your educational activities. For the organisations represented here, there is always a place for collaboration, innovation and quality improvement. I am convinced that the well organised programme and the distinguished speakers at this conference will inspire you to bring Occupational Therapy to the fore to enable a safer and better life, especially for the elderly and disabled. On this note, I wish you a fruitful time of exchange and learning at this conference.

Thank you.

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