Opening Address by Dr Lam Pin Min, Minister of State for Health, at the Singapore Patient Conference 2014, 31 October 2014

Madam Kay Kuok, Chairman, NHG

Professor Philip Choo, Chief Executive Officer, TTSH

Mr Michael Poh, Co-Chairman of TTSH CareConnect Volunteer Committee

Distinguished Speakers, NHG Board Members

Patients, community partners, volunteers and colleagues,

Introduction

Good afternoon to all. I am delighted to be invited to the annual Singapore Patient Conference. I was told it is the second time this event is being organised and Professor Choo has said there will be more to come.  

2.            It is also good to see many Pioneer Generation, or PG seniors in our midst today, some of whom I had the privilege to meet during lunch. I was very inspired by Mr Wong See Meng, Mr Michael Poh, Mr Michael Wong and Pearly, whom you saw in the earlier video. They are very passionate about giving back to the community they live in. They are ordinary folk, but with a wealth of life experiences, they lend insight and guidance to us, motivating us to move forth to achieve extraordinary things.

3.            Today’s theme on celebrating life and celebrating health resonates with me in a personal way. Being a doctor allows me to be part of my patients’ journeys, to witness their personal triumphs of recovery and to celebrate the joys of restored health and a new lease of life with their family. Episodes like these allow me to reflect on the relationships we forge with our patients and their family- be it on the operating theatre, in clinic or in the emergency room.

Transforming Patient Experience

4.            Healthcare professionals forge partnerships with patients and their families - together with a community of caregivers who include volunteers, social support networks and community organizations - to improve patient care. Patients of today expect more than just timely and safe treatment of their medical conditions. They hope for a provider who can also respect them as unique individuals with specific care needs.

5.            I am happy to observe that TTSH has taken positive steps in the field of patient experience to transform the way care is delivered to patients by developing a cadre of care that respects the needs, feelings and relationships of its patients.

6.            I am also heartened to note that we are acknowledging the efforts of caregivers today. Many caregivers look after the needs of an aged or ailing loved one practically round-the-clock, a role that is often demanding and challenging. With an increasing ageing population, caring for our elderly takes collaborative efforts with the community and I encourage us all to play our part and work together in this.

Connecting with Our Community of Volunteers

7.            We do this by strengthening our partnerships with our community of volunteers. True to its founding legacy of giving, caring and serving our community, the spirit of volunteerism lives on here in TTSH, supported by its community of 25 volunteer and patient support groups. Sharing a common vision of “Adding years of healthy life to the people of Singapore”, the contributions by some 700 volunteers have made a difference to the lives of our patients and their families. This diverse group of volunteers, some of them patients themselves, come from all walks of life and some who are amongst the audience, have been tirelessly giving emotional support to our patients and proactively giving suggestions to improve patient care.

CareConnect Volunteer Committee

8.            I congratulate TTSH for taking the lead to establish a hospital-wide committee to involve patients in co-creating an environment of healing and care. The CareConnect Volunteer Committee (or CVC) is instrumental in building a strong relationship between the hospital and the local community served by TTSH.

9.            The CVC aims to provide a sounding board for patients’ voices and participation in giving ideas for improving their care experience. Having experienced care first-hand at TTSH, our patient advocates now serve as a bridge between the hospital and its patients, particularly in communicating feedback.

10.         We have seen the stories of Mr Michael Wong and Ms Pearly Ng who have stayed true to the course of volunteerism by unstintingly giving their personal time and resources to help and support those in need.

11.         Mr Michael Wong, is a recipient of NHG Exemplary Patient Award 2014 for his selfless contributions as a volunteer for more than 3 years with the TTSH Colon Cancer Patient Support Group and TTSH. Despite the physical and emotional challenges of battling colon cancer in 2010, 76-year-old Michael channelled his experience into something positive, by becoming an active member of the Colon Cancer Patient Support Group and helping fellow patients cope with the illness. He manned the support group’s hotline every Thursday and conducted face-to-face counselling sessions at the clinics. A living testimony of how it was possible to overcome adversity through sheer courage and determination, patients and their families drew strength from Michael’s experience and learnt to cope better with their conditions. Michael readily volunteers in other areas within TTSH and is also a familiar face both to our patients and TTSH staff in the new Pharmacy. I was told that this sprightly PG volunteer stays on his feet for hours on end, serving patients and their family members in the Pharmacy, often going to the extra mile to anticipate and attend to patients and giving constructive feedback to the hospital.

12.         Another very passionate volunteer, Ms Pearly Ng started her journey of giving and sharing at the young age of 16 years old with the simple intention to just help those in need. The mother of 4 grown-up children is a volunteer with many voluntary welfare organisations such as Singapore Association for Visually Handicapped, Touch Community, Singapore Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore and Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore. Pearly’s volunteer journey into healthcare began in 2011 when she started chaperoning elderly patients for their specialist visits to TTSH. Pearly often takes on the role as a patient volunteer, an elderly befriender and also an advocate. She looks after many of these elderly patients helping them to navigate the complex healthcare journeys. Having witnessed first-hand on the delivery of care to the elderly patients, Pearly chaperons and spends a lot of her time in the hospital and regularly gives feedback to TTSH to better improve its process and deliver enhanced patient centric care. As a result of her feedback, Pearly has seen visible improvements to issues which she has raised such as waiting time for blood tests and timely replenishment of hand rubs.

13.         Through the heart-warming stories of Michael and Pearly, we hope to see CareConnect Volunteer Committee grow over time as future hospital improvement initiatives would be patient-led, enabling the hospital to become a true proponent of patient and family-centred care.

Conclusion

14.         This patient conference is a useful platform to hear and engage the views of everyone – patients, healthcare workers, community leaders and volunteers. We are constantly enhancing the way we provide care, to build a paradigm where we are aligned with one vision and where patient’s needs are attended to collaboratively.

15.         I look forward to very fruitful conversations today and I wish you all a successful conference. Thank you.

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