Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the 24th Singapore Pharmacy Congress 2014, 18 October 2014

Ms Miko Thum, President, Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore,         

Mr Wu Tuck Seng, Chairman of the Singapore Pharmacy Congress Organising Committee,

Asst Prof Lita Chew, Chief Pharmacist

Distinguished guests and speakers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,                                  

Good morning,

INTRODUCTION

1.        It gives me great pleasure to join you at this congress today. A very warm welcome to participants and our international visitors.  This is the first time that Singapore is hosting the International Medication Safety Network Meeting concurrently with the Singapore Pharmacy Congress.  We also have doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals participating in this congress, together with pharmacists. Your presence is a strong endorsement of the concept of providing collaborative and holistic healthcare, with focus on the patient.

2.        The theme of this congress "Advancing Medication Safety Towards Quality Care" is timely and relevant. It is aligned with the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) vision of achieving quality healthcare that is accessible and affordable for Singaporeans.

SINGAPORE’S COMMITMENT TO INNOVATE AND IMPROVE

3.        As part of our commitment to continuously innovate and improve the healthcare system, we had established the Singapore Healthcare Improvement Network (SHINe) in 2012 with the support of 23 founding members. SHINe helps to achieve the Triple Aims of better care, better health and lower costs. With this in mind, SHINe member institutions have embarked on a large scale initiative to improve care and reduce harm over the next three years in three main work streams - Medication Safety, Healthcare Infection Prevention and Surgical Safety. One example on Medication Safety is the project to design reliable processes in the use of high alert medications, namely hypoglycaemic agents and opioids. This will enhance patient safety.

SAFETY IS THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH QUALITY IS BUILT

4.        Safety is the foundation upon which quality is built. At the national level, the MOH National Medication Safety Committee was appointed in 2010 to promote medication safety awareness, standardise safe medication practices, and develop strategies to enhance medication delivery systems. The committee has been active in rolling out initiatives towards these aims, including the publication of the first national medication safety manual last year. Two medication safety forums were organised to share medication safety efforts as well as best practices among healthcare institutions, including intermediate and long-term care facilities. Taking a multi-pronged approach, a consumer insight survey about medication use was conducted to understand and measure the level of medication safety awareness among patients and consumers. Following the survey, the committee developed a set of recommendations for patient education.

HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS ARE KEY TO THE DELIVERY OF SAFE AND QUALITY HEALTHCARE

5.        Medication use is a continuum, from drug development to prescribing, dispensing and administration. It relies on various healthcare professionals to collaborate and facilitate each step. Hence, medication safety is not only relevant to pharmacists, but also to other healthcare professionals and workers. As medication experts, pharmacists should take the lead in this collaborative effort to ensure the safe and appropriate use of medications for our patients. 

PATIENTS AND CONSUMERS AS PARTNERS

6.        At the center of the medication use process is the most important person – the patient.  Therefore, the responsible and appropriate use of medications does not only rest with healthcare professionals but also with patients and consumers who should be informed and involved in their health matters, and the treatment and medications they are receiving.

7.        Pharmacy Week 2014 will be launched at this Congress, with the aim of educating patients and consumers on the safe and appropriate use of medicines. I understand that there will also be free medication reviews island-wide at participating hospitals and community pharmacies. These are laudable efforts to empower our patients and promote safe medication use, and I commend the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore for their initiative in organising this annual event.

8.        Besides medication awareness and safety, the direct help and advice that pharmacists give to patients and consumers are also meaningful and worthwhile. I am heartened to hear stories from our community pharmacists on how they involve patients in their own care.

9.        Take for example, Ms Lam Cai Hong, Pharmacist at Unity NTUC Health and Health Ambassador, who provided counselling to a newly diagnosed diabetes patient on the proper use of her new medication and the possible side effects.  Ms Lam helped the patient determine and manage the dizziness she was experiencing due to the new medication, as well as hypoglycaemia - another common side effect of diabetes medications.  Through regular consultations with Ms Lam on medication management and lifestyle modifications, the patient’s condition improved significantly and her blood sugar level was maintained within the normal range. This is an example of how a community pharmacist can empower patients not only on the safe use of medicines but also to take a proactive approach in managing their health conditions.

10.      Another example is Pharmacist Ms Sharene Goh from Watsons, who helped a patient to detect side effects from medicines and provided appropriate advice on the safe and correct use of over-the-counter medicines. The patient had been using a combination of medications for a long time for her condition, thinking that she was suffering from “chronic flu” for three months. She had difficulty sleeping and experienced mood swings. Ms Goh advised her to stop the combination of medicines and recommended another treatment which subsequently improved the patient’s condition tremendously.

CONCLUSION

11.      This Congress is an important platform for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to come together to network, learn from each other and explore innovative ways to collaborate and deliver safer and better care for our patients. On this note, I would like to make a special mention of the late Mr Koe Khoon Poh, who was a proponent of lifelong learning. Mr Koe helped formulate the principles for pharmacists’ continuing education in Singapore as a member of the Pro Tem Continuing Professional Education Accreditation Committee, and also served as a member of the Singapore Pharmacy Council from 2008 to 2011, which were among his many contributions to the pharmacy profession.

12.      I would like to congratulate the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore for your good work and commitment to host this important event; and for carrying on the tradition and legacy of pioneers such as the late Mr Koe.

13.      I wish you a fruitful and successful 24th Singapore Pharmacy Congress. Thank you.

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