Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State (Health), at Opening of St Luke's Eldercare Changkat Centre, 26 Apr 2014

Ms Irene Ng, Member of Parliament for Tampines Changkat

Prof Lee Hin Peng, Chairman of St Luke’s ElderCare

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

1.            A very good morning to all. It gives me great pleasure to join you here at the official opening ceremony of St Luke’s ElderCare’s new Senior Care Centre (SCC) in Changkat.

Singapore’s Ageing Population

2.            Singapore, like many other countries, has an ageing population. The number of seniors is expected to increase to more than 900,000.  Put another way, by 2030, one in five residents will be a senior.

3.            To meet the increasing need for eldercare services and support our seniors to age gracefully, the Government has taken steps to enlarge capacity in our eldercare services across the island. In tandem, we are also raising the quality of care by improving our eldercare service standards and introducing developmental guidelines, and making healthcare more affordable by enhancing our healthcare financing and assistance schemes.

Enhancing Home-based and Community-based Care

4.            Our vision is to help seniors to age in place. We want to enable seniors to age within their own homes and within the community, in an environment they are familiar with, for as long as possible. We are already ramping up capacity in home-based care services and expanding the suite of home-based care services to make it more comprehensive. For example, from the start of this month, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has included home-based rehabilitation as a subsidised home care service, in addition to home nursing, home medical and home-based personal care.

5.            In addition, the Government also provides various other support for family caregivers who want to care for their senior members at home for as long as possible. These schemes include the Foreign Domestic Worker Grant and the Caregiver Training Grant. We have also enhanced our Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund, to make it easier for seniors to seek subsidies for assistive devices such as wheelchairs and daily consumables such as diapers and milk feeds, so that they can be cared for at home.

6.            To complement home-based care, MOH is concurrently also building more eldercare centres in the community. This provides another care option for seniors and their caregivers.

7.            This new Changkat Centre is St Luke’s ElderCare’s eleventh eldercare centre and their largest to date.  As part of MOH’s plans to bring care closer to the community, this is an integrated one-stop centre providing both health and social care services, which include day care, dementia day care, rehabilitation and nursing services. Having the various services under one roof will save seniors and caregivers in the Tampines Changkat area the trouble of visiting different centres for different services.  Seniors in the vicinity will now be better able to age-in-place at home, and working family members can also have the peace of mind that their loved ones will be well taken care of at a facility close to home. I am confident that the centre will, in no time, be a valued member of the community here.

8.            The Centre has already started to benefit local residents, such as Mdm Ng Aik Siew and her daughter, Ms Peggy Lim. Mdm Ng is a 92 year old resident who has developed dementia, and requires care and assistance for her daily needs. Her condition deteriorated over time, reaching a point such that Peggy could not leave her mother’s side for extended periods of time and was thus unable to find work. With the opening of this Centre, Peggy can now drop her mother off at the centre with peace of mind while she goes to work. At the centre, Mdm Ng receives the care services that she requires, and participates in recreational activities like handicraft and games, as well as physical exercise. Today, she is more alert and her physical stamina has improved. I am sure more seniors and their caregivers will benefit from this Centre in time to come.

9.            I am also glad to see St Luke’s ElderCare actively reaching out to the community. It has invited residents living nearby to make full use of its gym facilities on weekdays, promoting a culture of active and healthy living amongst the Changkat community. I am glad to learn that this is well-received by the residents to date.

10.         Going forward, we envisage a network of eldercare centres across the island to bring aged care services closer to the community. In the past two years, nine new centres in different regions across Singapore have opened, providing a total of more than 400 additional day places. We aim to more than double the current centre-based care capacity by 2020, by adding more than 3000 day-care places to the current capacity.

Healthcare Manpower

11.         We will also need to find dedicated healthcare professionals and eldercare workers to deliver care to our seniors as we build up our aged care services. It is hence crucial that we step up our efforts to attract, recruit and retain the talent and manpower that the sector will need going forward. Besides attracting young Singaporeans into careers in the intermediate and long term care (ILTC) sector and supplementing our workforce through foreign recruitment, we need to grow new sources of manpower by reaching out to the communities around our ILTC facilities.

12.         In particular, with the enhanced network of eldercare centres in the community coming onstream, there will be ample new jobs for Singaporeans.  Singaporeans living in different parts of the island will be able to walk to work if they work in these centres. We welcome active seniors to join the workforce to care for other seniors. We need more Singaporeans to step forward and contribute to the care and well-being of our seniors, and we urge residents staying around here to consider a meaningful career or volunteer opportunities in the ILTC sector.

13.         We also want to attract more mid-career professionals such as those who have taken a break from their careers, housewives and retirees to join the healthcare sector.  Besides mid-career professionals, there are also a significant number of nurses and therapists who have taken leave from work to start a family, study or look after elderly parents. We encourage these healthcare professionals who are keen to return to active practice to join the eldercare sector for a meaningful and fulfilling career. Refresher courses and training allowances will be provided to ease their re-entry to active practice if they have left practice for some years.

Conclusion

14.         Last but not least, I would like to thank Ms Irene Ng, Advisor to Tampines Changkat Grassroots Organizations, and her grassroots leaders, for their leadership in bringing this Centre into fruition. They had put in a lot of hard work, ranging from identifying suitable premises to engaging residents to ensure that the Centre meets community needs. The Advisor and her grassroots leaders have got out of their way to give the Centre a warm welcome and continue to be actively involved with the Centre. For instance, I understand that Tampines Changkat Zone 1 RC organised a Christmas party-cum-open house event last year for residents to tour and learn more about the facilities and interact with one another.

15.         I am confident that this new Centre will be an asset to Tampines-Changkat, and will help to serve the needs of its seniors as well as residents. We look forward to the continued partnership with St Luke’s ElderCare and the grassroots organisations in the years ahead as we jointly build a supportive environment for our seniors to live life to the fullest.

16.         I wish you all a good day ahead. Thank you.

 

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