Speech by A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport, at the Second International Home Care Nurses Organisation Conference on 24 Sep 2014, YWCA Fort Canning Lodge

Dr Mary Ann Tsao, Chairman, Tsao Foundation,

Ms Tina Marrelli, Chairwoman, Co-Organising Committee and Founder of IHCNO,

Ms Fong Yoke Hiong, Chairwoman, Co-Organising Committee and Assistant Director, Nursing, Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing,

Committee Members of the Second International Home Care Nurses Organisation Conference,

Nurses, care professionals and international guests,

Good morning.

            It gives me great pleasure to join you here this morning at the Second International Home Care Nursing Organisation Conference, or IHCNO.

2         The IHCNO mission is to develop a vibrant global network of nurses who promote excellence in providing healthcare to clients who live at home. This is a goal worth supporting as many countries, including Singapore, face the challenges of an ageing population. Nurses play a key role in home health care. I am glad that the Tsao Foundation’s Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing has taken the initiative to co-organise the second IHCNO conference in Singapore. 

3         This is Singapore’s first dedicated conference on home care nursing and is timely as the Ministry of Health (MOH) embarks on efforts to strengthen the development of the nursing profession. We are enhancing the scope of duties, autonomy and training of our nurses. We are also recognising them for their contribution to the health of our nation.

4         Skilled nurses form the backbone of our healthcare system. Home care nurses, in particular, will play an increasingly important role to address the changing healthcare needs of our ageing population. In the past months, the Government has embarked on a series of discussions to chart out our aspirations and strategies for Successful Ageing in Singapore. Many seniors who took part in these discussions shared with us that they prefer to age-in-place, to live independently within a supportive community among their friends and family. We will need good, comprehensive and reliable home care service, including home care nursing, to support our seniors in realising this aspiration. More home care nurses will be needed to care for an increasing number of seniors with chronic and complex conditions at their homes.

5         Home care nurses are in a good position to provide person-centred care in addressing these complex needs. They have access into the homes and personal lives of their clients. With a unique insight into the clients’ intertwined medical, social and psycho-emotional issues, these nurses can take a care management approach.  Besides caring for and treating the specific medical condition, they can advocate, link up and coordinate various health services to optimise the health and well-being of their clients.

6         Home care nurses also play a crucial role in making our policies more robust. Home environments, unlike institutional settings, are unpredictable, varied and fluid. Home care nurses have to be quick and adept at dealing with change and pulling together resources that are not within immediate reach. Often, volunteers and family members ask them to assist persons whose situations are not captured in the healthcare system. Home care nurses will detect and highlight unmet needs, emerging trends and service gaps. Their invaluable feedback will allow us to develop better care for our seniors.

7         MOH is already enhancing home care services through the 3 “C”s. We are increasing capacity to make home care services more accessible for our seniors. We are making the suite of home care services more comprehensive to meet the diverse needs of our seniors. We are also strengthening caregiver support to enable caregivers to give better care. Earlier this month, we also launched a public consultation exercise on a set of guidelines, developed by the home care sector, to articulate the quality of care we want to aspire towards. A group of dedicated home care providers, including Tsao Foundation, came together to develop this set of guidelines. I thank Tsao Foundation for their effort and contribution towards this endeavour.

8         One of the key principles in the home care guidelines is the delivery of person-centred, interdisciplinary home-care to support successful ageing. The Hua Mei Centre has done good work in this respect and I would like to cite an example of how they cared for and journeyed with an elder, as she maintained her independence living on her own.

9         The person is a single elder, who was on public assistance for 20 years, till the end of her life. I shall refer to her as Mdm Tan. Mdm Tan first became their client at age 80. The team walked with her on her remaining life journey and provided her with continuous person-centred care, as her changing medical and social situations required. The team ensured that she was linked up with the Senior Activity Centre (SAC) near her home and a befriender, providing community support to promote her independence. Through the years, the home care team managed her chronic health conditions. The nurse was also vigilant in helping her to avoid falls, and ensuring that she took the correct diet, through regular checks and advice. When she was warded in the hospital, the Hua Mei home care team even maintained communication with the hospital team to ensure continuity of care for her, and that the transitions be made as seamless as possible. They also discussed with her the end-of-life care options and formulated an individualised Advanced Care Plan with her. Mdm Tan expressed her wish to continue living in the community until she was no longer able to walk and cope on her own at home. She lived briefly in a nursing home of her choice, and passed away peacefully after her 100th birthday. This is a good example of person-centred care.

10       On this note, I applaud the home-care team for its good work, and I congratulate the second IHCNO committee for organising this conference. Thank you for your efforts to promote nursing excellence. I wish all of you an enjoyable and fruitful learning experience.   Thank you.

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