Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State (Health) at Singapore Trauma Conference 2014, 12 Apr 2014

Professor Philip Choo, CEO TTSH
Associate Professor Thomas Lew, Chairman, Medical Board, TTSH
Dr Chiu Ming Terk, Chairman, National Trauma Committee
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

1.         Good morning. I am delighted to join you here at the opening of the 8th Singapore Trauma Conference. Let me extend a warm welcome to all, and especially to our guests from abroad.

Burden of Trauma

2.         The theme of this year’s conference is “Challenges of Trauma Care in the Modern World”. As a group, injuries and various types of trauma constitute the main reason for hospitalisation in Singapore.

3.         In turn, the two main causes of severe trauma are falls and road traffic injuries. Trauma used to be thought of as a condition that afflicts only the young and road users. However, data from the National Trauma Database showed that around one in three cases of severe trauma occur in people over 65 years of age. Many of these injuries happen at home. Injury and falls prevention should therefore be a priority for elderly Singaporeans, and all the more as we prepare for a rapidly ageing population.

Current State of Trauma Care

4.         To meet the challenge of trauma care and to better meet the needs of trauma patients, we need to advance not only clinical practice and medical technology, but also the organisation of our healthcare system and resources.

5.         The National Trauma Committee was set up in 2008 to strengthen the provision of trauma care, as well as to improve trauma care standards at our healthcare institutions. Hospitals are now provided with a set of standards that specify the level and quality of trauma care that they deliver to their patients.

6.         Pre-hospital trauma care is also evolving, and it calls for relevant training programmes. The inaugural Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support Course was held in Tan Tock Seng Hospital last year. This internationally recognised programme, held in collaboration with the US-based National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), equips our paramedics with the skills and knowledge to deliver good critical care in the pre-hospital environment. So far, 157 paramedics have completed the course.

Fall Prevention Strategies for Seniors

7.         For our seniors, enabling them to age gracefully at home and in the community would mean that the home and living environment must be made safe to prevent unnecessary falls. HDB’s Enhancements for Active Seniors (EASE) Programme is one such example. This nation-wide programme retrofits seniors’ homes with elder-friendly features, such as grab bars and non-slip flooring. This has benefitted about 24,000 residents across Singapore so far.

8.         From 1st April this year, MOH has also started providing subsidies for home environment reviews. This programme is meant for seniors who have been referred for subsidised home care services. A therapist will visit them at their home to assess and identify preventable home hazards that could cause falls or injuries, and to recommend home modifications to maximise the seniors’ ability for independent living. For these modifications, the home care service provider can also assist the seniors to apply for Government assistance schemes, such as the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF) or HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) funding.

9.         We are also enhancing the safety of our nursing homes to prevent unnecessary falls. The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) started a Falls Prevention (Quality Improvement) Project in 2011 to provide mentoring, tools and protocols to help nursing homes reduce the incidence of falls. In the pilot project, the number of residents who sustained fall-related injuries was reduced by 85 percent after its implementation. Several other nursing homes, such as Man Fut Tong Nursing Home, Ju Eng Home for Senior Citizens and Tai Pei Social Services, have since joined the project.

10.       Besides home and living environment improvements, education and exercise are key in preventing falls among seniors. Over the past three years, about 10,000 seniors have benefitted from the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) educational talks and workshops. These raise the seniors’ awareness of risk factors associated with falls, and educate them on fall prevention strategies and techniques. HPB has also implemented a nation-wide Strength Training Exercise Programme (STEP) since October 2011. This 12-week exercise programme, conducted by a qualified physiotherapist, helps the seniors to improve their muscle strength and balance to reduce their risk of falls. This also builds their self-confidence to move around. So far, more than 300 seniors have benefitted from this programme.

Conclusion

11.       I would like to take the opportunity to thank the organising committee of this conference for putting together an exciting programme, and bringing together experts to share their vast and varied experience in the management of trauma. I wish you all a productive and meaningful conference ahead. Thank you.

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