Speech by Permanent Secretary (Health), Mrs Tan Ching Yee, at the Official Opening of the Family Medicine Academy, Bukit Batok Polyclinic, 4 September 2013

Group CEO of National Healthcare Group, Prof Chee Yam Cheng,

Professor Lionel Lee, Executive Vice-Dean of Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

CEO of National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, Mr Leong Yew Meng,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

1. Good morning. I am happy to be here to mark the official opening of the Family Medicine Academy at Bukit Batok Polyclinic. This  facility will provide a space where our future primary care doctors can be trained and mentored to meet the needs of tomorrow’s

The Needs of Tomorrow

2. Between today and 2030, we will see a big shift in our demographics as our population ages. The proportion of our population aged 65 and above, will more than double to 20 per cent. Our healthcare needs will rise and change. “Change” because we will need to look after people with chronic conditions, help them manage well, so that they can continue to have a good quality of life. Early signs can already be seen across NHG’s nine polyclinics today, where the bulk of its patients with chronic conditions are aged 45 to 74. We need strong primary care to do such patient, but important, work of looking after people pretty much for the rest for their lives

3. We are continuing to expand the capacity and reach of primary care for Singaporeans, first by the recent review and expansion of the Community Health Assist Scheme. The removal of the age criterion and adjustment of the income eligibility will benefit more lower and middle-income Singaporeans of all ages, particularly in the areas of preventive care and chronic disease management. We are also creating direct public-private partnerships in the form of Family Medicine Clinics. We will also be bringing more new polyclinics into the pipeline in the coming years, as well as redeveloping our older polyclinics.

4. But even as we expand infrastructure, we need to also ensure that well-trained doctors are available in the community to deliver care where it is most needed. This need for training can take place at many levels. For practicing GPs, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been working closely with each of the Regional Health Systems and the College of Family Physicians to actively engage them in training, as well as to support them in managing more complex patients. For younger doctors, postgraduate training has been enhanced through the implementation of Family Medicine Residency, which provides a structured and rigorous approach to training. For medical students, we are partnering with Duke University and Imperial College London to give more young minds a good  education to become future doctors.

5. This is where Family Medicine Academy comes in to complete the spectrum of initiatives to support undergraduate medical training. This opening today signals our seriousness in wanting to develop a strong primary care sector through grooming new generations of doctors who have a deep appreciation of Family Medicine.

Talent & Skills Development

6. As a result of a tie up between Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and its primary clinical partner the National Healthcare Group, the Family Medicine Academy within Bukit Batok Polyclinic will offer practice-based learning for LKCMedicine’s inaugural batch of 54 medical undergraduates within the primary care setting. LKCMedicine students will be able to gain exposure to polyclinic practice in the first year of their undergraduate studies.

7. In fact, the facility was specifically located within a polyclinic so that students can spend a week in their first semester of Year 1 right in the heart of primary care. This allows them to gain a first-hand perspective into the roles of the various members of the healthcare team, the needs of the patients in the clinic and the importance of care within the community. By providing students with this early exposure to primary care, we hope they will be able to better appreciate the role and the challenges faced by primary care teams in the healthcare system. More importantly, we hope this early exposure will leave a deep imprint on the students and encourage more to pursue a path in Family Medicine upon their graduation.

8. The Academy leverages on technology to bring the latest clinical and skills teaching methods to our students. Besides training students from LKCMedicine, the Family Medicine Academy will also provide a learning space for medical undergraduates from Duke-NUS Medical School and NUS YLL School of Medicine. This is the right way – to train future medical schools, six Regional Health System, but only one Singaporean community to serve.

9. The Family Medicine Academy marks an exciting phase in our medical education system to develop a stronger and more vibrant primary care sector. I would like to congratulate the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, National Healthcare Group and LKCMedicine on the opening of this facility. With these infrastructure and talent development programmes in place, I look forward to more doctors, who have a deep appreciation for primary care being groomed.

10. Thank you.

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