Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at Sengkang General & Community Hospitals "Building Up for the Community" event, 29 Nov 2014

Mr Peter Seah, Chairman, SingHealth

Prof Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth

Prof Christopher Cheng, Pro-tem CEO, Sengkang Health

Prof Ong Biauw Chi, Pro-tem CMB, Sengkang Health

Mr Akihiko Togo, Senior Executive Officer, Head of International Divisions Group, Penta-Ocean

Dr Lam Pin Min, Advisor for Sengkang West SMC

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Introduction

Just over a year ago, I was here for the groundbreaking ceremony for Sengkang General and Community Hospitals. I recall telling Prof Chris Cheng that the project has to move fast and be on time, on target and on budget. I am very glad to see that the team has been working very hard and that the infrastructure development of the project is on track so far.

2          With Singapore’s ageing population, we are seeing a change in disease patterns, as more people are living with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, compared to the past. All these factors have contributed to the increasing demand for healthcare services by Singaporeans.

3          The “Healthcare 2020 Master Plan” serves as our roadmap towards increasing accessibility, improving quality and enhancing affordability of healthcare for all Singaporeans. 

4          These two Sengkang hospitals are an important part of the HC2020 Masterplan, to bring healthcare services closer to residents in the northeast region of Singapore. Nationally, from now until the end of 2020, we are adding over 11,000 more acute hospital, community hospital and nursing home beds. When ready, the two hospitals will add another 1,400 beds to our healthcare system.

Transforming the Way We Deliver Care

5          To meet the evolving healthcare needs, building more hospitals and adding more beds is not a sustainable long-term approach. We can no longer rely on a hospital-centric system as patients' needs become increasingly complex, which also means they require longer-term care outside the hospital setting.

6          This is why we have been actively developing the Regional Health Systems (RHS). Each RHS will have an acute general hospital and community hospital working in close partnership with nursing homes, home care and day rehabilitative providers, as well as polyclinics and private GPs within the region to provide seamless and holistic care for patients.

7          Through the regional health systems, patients will be better enabled to manage their own health and chronic conditions, so that they will remain well and avoid going to hospital. Should patients fall ill, they and their caregivers can be better supported to continue their care so that they can recover well in the community and in their homes rather than in the hospitals.  We want to help our residents, particularly the elderly, stay healthy and be able to contribute to the community and society for as long as possible. To achieve this vision, two groups of people are very critical.

Developing Manpower

8          First, we need good healthcare professionals to work in our new healthcare facilities and, as importantly, to go out into the community, as we transform the way we deliver healthcare services. In August this year, I announced the Government’s acceptance of the “CARE” package of recommendations[1] by the National Nursing Taskforce to boost the attraction and retention of nurses, and to support the growth and development of the nursing profession. This includes empowering nurses to make protocol-based diagnoses and investigations for certain disease profiles and to order treatment. Increasing funding is also being provided for sponsorships for our nurses to pursue advanced diploma, bachelor and postgraduate programmes. 

9          Besides nurses, the Ministry has also been reviewing the training of our allied health professionals. I am pleased to announce that the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) will be launching four-year degree programmes in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Diagnostic Radiography, and Radiation Therapy in September 2016. The degree programmes will lead to a Bachelor of Science with Honours. They will better equip our allied health professionals with the requisite skills and knowledge to help all our patients, including the elderly, get better rehabilitation and preventive care.  SIT will start with an initial intake of 235 students across the four programmes, before ramping up progressively. The new programmes will expand the range of degree programmes available at SIT, and will give our young people a more diverse range of career options to fulfil their aspirations.

10        With the launch of the new degree programmes at SIT, the existing allied health diploma courses at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) will admit its last intake in April next year. Since 1995, NYP has graduated over 2,200 allied health professionals, who have served our patients well. Many of them have gone on to attain degree qualifications locally and overseas. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to NYP and all their lecturers and staff.  They have worked tirelessly over the last 20 years to train many generations of allied health professionals. The team is fully committed to continue teaching, right through to the graduation of the cohort in 2018.    

11        Notwithstanding the new SIT degree programmes, the Allied Health Professions Council and public healthcare clusters will continue to recognise the NYP diploma qualifications for entry to practice. The public healthcare sector will also continue to progress AHPs based on their work performance, regardless of their entry educational qualifications. Diploma-trained professionals will continue to have opportunities to upgrade and pursue their degrees if they wish to.

Engaging the Community

12        The second group of people who have a big part to play is the community itself – indeed, all of us present here today. As Prof Cheng has mentioned, we need to look upstream to keep ourselves healthy and take ownership of our own health.   

13        MOH has launched the Master Plan on Healthy Living so that Singaporeans can access a wide range of affordable, healthy lifestyle activities in workplaces, schools and the community.

14        Today, I am glad to see that Sengkang Health is taking the next step, by initiating a United Network for Healthy Living dialogue, for agencies and community stakeholders to get connected and work towards stronger community health in the northeast region.

15        I understand that Sengkang Health has already been actively engaging community partners in the northeast, such as the Sengkang Social Service Office, to understand the social and medical needs of the community. Effective help requires not just medical interventions, but also solutions to social challenges, such as helping aged patients living alone without family support. In time, Sengkang Health hopes to partner primary care providers, VWOs and social agencies in providing well-rounded assistance to patients and vulnerable residents, as well as their caregivers. But institutional support can only do so much. Each of us has a part to play in looking out for one another, to help out neighbours when they need it most.

Conclusion

16        It is fitting that, even as the “hardware” element of Sengkang General and Community Hospitals get underway, the engagement and conversations with partners and community must develop in tandem. I hope that the relationships and ties developed will ensure that Sengkang Health and the community will be able to achieve “better health together”. 

17        On this note, I wish all of you a fruitful and meaningful discussion today. Thank you.

 

 


 

[1] The “CARE” package comprises 15 recommendations in four areas: Career development, Autonomy, Recognition and Education.

 

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