Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the ILTC Manpower Development Awards Ceremony, MND Auditorium, ANNEXE A on 10 Sep 2014

Dr Jennifer Lee, AIC Chairman

Dr Ma Swan Hoo

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

                Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to join you here at the second Intermediate and Long Term Care (ILTC) Manpower Development Awards Ceremony.

Partnership for ILTC Manpower Development

2.            The development of healthcare and aged care services in the ILTC sector to meet the needs of our seniors is a priority under the Ministry’s Healthcare 2020 masterplan. In addition to increasing community hospital and nursing home beds, we are also expanding home and community care services, and enhancing caregiver support. To realize this expansion, we will need a strong pool of qualified and committed ILTC professionals.

3.            MOH and AIC are committed to helping the sector better recruit and retain staff, through various initiatives, such as the provision of additional funding for community hospitals and nursing homes to improve staffing, development of a new Place n Train programme for senior care workers and the provision of funding to enhance salaries in the sector. 

4.            The ILTC workforce has grown by 40% from 4,000 in 2010 to 5,600 in 2013.  We are stepping up efforts this year and working with new ILTC institutions to facilitate recruitment of local staff.  An example of such a partnership is the recent concluded recruitment fair for Ren Ci’s new nursing home in Bukit Batok, which is slated to open in the end of the year. AIC and the Workforce Development Agency have partnered Ren Ci to organise a recruitment fair at the Hong Kah Community Centre on 5 Sep 2014, targeting the residents living close by. Through greater outreach efforts, we hope to attract more Singaporeans to join the ILTC sector and contribute to the meaningful work of caring for our elderly.

5.            Besides expanding ILTC manpower capacity, deepening manpower capabilities is equally important. Since 2002, we have invested more than $15 million in ILTC training initiatives such as the Social & Health Manpower Development Programme-ILTC (SHMDP-ILTC), which enables ILTC professionals to go for advanced skills training, both locally and overseas; the ILTC-Upgrading Programme (ILTC-UP), a scholarship programme that offers ILTC professionals the opportunity to pursue degrees in nursing and allied health disciplines; and the Mid-Term Scholarship for Medical Social Workers (MTS MSW).

6.            We are thankful for the strong support of corporate sponsors like Temasek Cares (TC). TC’s generous funding for the Temasek Cares Study Award has enabled tertiary students and in-service ILTC professionals to take up diploma courses in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing and healthcare administration at Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, and the Institute of Technical Education. Moving forward, the Temasek Cares Study Award will be renamed the “Balaji Sadasivan Study Award”, in honour of the late Dr Balaji’s dedication and contributions to the healthcare sector.

Realising Aspirations

7.            To date, more than 400 ILTC professionals have benefitted from the scholarships and grants which are available to the ILTC sector. Today, another 50 awardees will be a step closer to realising their goals and aspirations. Among them is Ms Francesca Patricia John Govindasamy, a 40 year-old enrolled nurse with Assisi Hospice, one of the first recipients of the renamed “Balaji Sadasivan Study Award”. Previously from the hospitality industry, a volunteer stint at the hospice inspired Francesca to pursue a mid-career switch to nursing, to allow her to work with end-of-life patients during their final journey. Francesca will be pursuing a Diploma in Nursing at Ngee Ann Polytechnic this year to realise her goal of providing better care to her palliative patients.

8.            Another of today’s award recipients is Mr Daren Sim. Currently a career coach, Daren’s interest in counselling first started during his National Service days, and grew stronger during his time at a private hospital where he worked as a financial counsellor and was exposed to cases where patients were facing problems with their finances, marriages, elderly parents and other issues. WDA. Inspired by his wife who recently completed her studies in social work, Daren will be pursuing a degree in social work at the SIM University under the MTS MSW.

9.            For Ms Deborah Chen, a Centre Coordinator with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), her study award will enable her to make full use of her talent and interest in art to rehabilitate clients with mental conditions. Deborah is a graduate of the School of Art, Design and Media at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Her interest in the ILTC sector was sparked by her involvement in a project with the Parkinson’s Disease Society of Singapore, where she realised the benefits of using art as a tool for facilitating communication and therapy. Spurred by this, she joined SAMH where she now interacts with clients with mental health conditions using art therapy. Deborah will be pursuing a Master of Arts in Art Therapy at LaSalle College of the Arts, a first under the SHMDP-ILTC. She hopes to use the skills gained through the master’s programme to help her clients exercise their physical and mental abilities and express themselves creatively through art.

Benefits to the sector

10.         These stories are deeply encouraging and inspiring. Already, our earlier investments in the various ILTC training grants are yielding promising results for the sector, and more importantly, for our elderly clients.

11.         Take the example of Mr Galvin Tan, a 26 year-old Occupational Therapist from St Andrew’s Community Hospital (SACH) who has successfully completed his training. His entry to the ILTC sector was first made possible by the Balaji Sadasivan Study Award in 2011, which enabled him to pursue a diploma in occupational therapy. He was later also awarded the ILTC-UP award in 2012 to pursue his degree in the same field. Since graduating from the Singapore Institute of Technology in June of last year, Galvin and his team at SACH have drawn on their training and creativity to devise cognitive puzzles for patients to play with while at the hospital and even at home after they are discharged. These puzzles have helped to keep the patients mentally alert and engaged. 

12.         Galvin also shares his knowledge on how to care for patients with dementia with his colleagues at SACH, and has brought some of his colleagues on board with the practice of talking to their patients and family members about the patients’ life history, which gives the care team a better understanding of the patients’ behaviour, interest and values.

13.         Another example is Ms Josefina Peralta Khai, a 43 year-old Staff Nurse, who pursued an Advanced Diploma in Nursing (Gerontology) at Nanyang Polytechnic under SHMDP-ILTC in 2012. From her course, Josefina learnt about the importance of meeting the psycho-social needs of seniors. After graduating, Josephina and her team at the Peacehaven Nursing Home introduced special Resident Living Areas (RLAs) for residents in the nursing home which, together with activities such as painting and Chinese dance, have succeeded in helping Peacehaven residents interact more with one another, stay active and be more independent. With these new initiatives, Josefina’s team clinched the Best Dementia Care Programme for ILTC Institution award at the 2nd Eldercare Innovation Awards ceremony.

14.         I look forward to hearing more examples of how ILTC professionals who have gone for advanced training have applied their new knowledge and skills to develop innovative new programmes and improve care for our patients.

Launch of the Singapore Silver Line

15.         Raising capacity and building up manpower capabilities in the ILTC sector are necessary to support the needs of an ageing population. Equally important is the need to ensure that it is convenient for our elderly and their caregivers to access our services.   

16.         On this note, I am pleased to officially launch the Singapore Silver Line today. This is a one-stop national eldercare helpline that caregivers and the elderly can call to access a variety of services, including referral to care services, application for grants, and care coordination for loved ones with multiple needs. Callers can also dial this toll-free number for healthcare enquiries to find out more about the special Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) subsidies and Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme that started on 1 September. The call agents are able to converse in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, as well as dialect, to assist non-English speaking callers.

17.         The call agents are also trained to help identify difficulties that elderly or caregivers may face and respond appropriately to their needs. The Singapore Silver Line also has a working arrangement with various helplines. For example, the call agents will be trained by Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) to handle crisis calls. For callers who need a listening ear, the Singapore Silver Line will also link them up with Sage Counselling Centre for tele-counselling and tele-befriending services through their Seniors Helpline.

18.         Since its soft launch in July, the helpline has served close to 9,700 callers.  A survey has found that 97% of Silver Line callers found the information provided by the helpline relevant and useful.

19.         With this one-stop helpline, we hope to make the experience of navigating the eldercare service landscape as seamless as possible for callers, so that they can focus on caring for their elderly. Do help us to share the news of this helpline with your clients and their families.

Closing

20.         The launch of the Singapore Silver Line and the building up of the ILTC manpower capability through the Awards presented today are testament to the Government’s commitment to making Singapore a place for our elderly and their caregivers to live well and age gracefully.

21.         In closing, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to the award recipients.  I wish you all the best in your learning journey, and hope that in the days ahead, you will be able to make even greater contributions to the ILTC sector.

 

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