Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony 2015 on 29 July 2015

Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Scholarship recipients,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon,

Introduction

1.              It gives me great pleasure to join all of you this afternoon for the 2015 Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony. I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all our healthcare scholarship recipients this year.  

Enhancing Our Healthcare Accessibility, Quality and Affordability

2.              In 2012, the Ministry of Health launched the Healthcare 2020 Masterplan with three strategic objectives to improve accessibility, quality and affordability of healthcare for Singaporeans.  In the area of accessibility, we are ramping up healthcare and aged care capacity. 

3.              The new Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in Jurong East and the Jurong Community Hospital have started operations last month. By 2020, the Government will add at least 1,700 acute beds to 9,000 and double the number of community hospital beds to 3,000.

4.              We will also be developing 6 more polyclinics, in addition to the existing 18, to make primary care more accessible to all. Since 2010, we have also developed 6 Family Medicine Centres and 6 Community Health Centres. These will support new models of integrated team-based care by family physicians, nurses and allied health professionals working together in primary and community sectors to care for patients with chronic diseases.

5.              To enhance care for our seniors, we are also building up our aged care services. We are increasing home care places from the current 6,500 to 10,000,  centre-based places from the current 3,100 to 6,200,  and nursing home beds from the current 9,800 to 17,000, all by 2020.   We are growing the workforce in parallel, with the healthcare professional workforce expanded by 9,000 between 2011 and 2014. We are increasing the local training pipelines too.

6.              At the same time as we expand capacity, we are also taking steps to raise the quality of care. Enhanced nursing home standards have already been rolled out and will be enforced in 2016. Developmental guidelines on home and centre-based care services have also been introduced to guide service providers in delivering quality care to our seniors.

7.              We need to ensure that healthcare remains affordable for all Singaporeans. The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) was introduced in 2012 to extend portable subsidies in primary care to private GP and dental clinics. We now have 1.3 million CHAS cardholders. Over 50% of private GP clinics and almost 80% of private dental clinics are on CHAS.  Medishield Life will start in end-2015, and it will provide all Singaporeans with better protection, for life. With MediShield Life paying more of the hospitalisation bills, patients will pay less.  But better coverage also means premiums will go up.  The Government will be providing significant subsidies to ensure premiums remain affordable.  No Singaporean will lose their MediShield Life coverage because of the inability to pay premiums – that is the Government’s assurance. 

Efforts to Grow Talent Pipeline for Our Public Healthcare

8.              As we grow capacity and build a healthcare system for Singapore’s future, we will also need to attract a fair share of our young Singaporean talent to join us on this noble mission. 

9.              We have been working hard to attract young, bright and talented Singaporeans to join us as Nurses, Allied Health Professionals or Healthcare Administrators. Each profession plays a key and integral role in achieving the best possible outcomes for patients, through a multi-disciplinary team-based approach. While our Nurses and Allied Health Professionals are at the forefront of helping and caring for patients, our healthcare administrators ensure that hospital operations are run efficiently and clinical teams are well-supported by progressive policies, systems and processes.

10.          This year, I am pleased to announce that we are giving out a record 301 healthcare scholarships, an increase of 6% from last year and 20% from 2013.   It marks yet another pinnacle in our mission to attract talent to the public healthcare sector.   

11.          I am heartened by the interest of our top Singaporean students in public healthcare.  Based on this year’s survey on scholarships conducted by BrightSparks, a key scholarship portal in Singapore, our healthcare scholarships are now in the Top 5 ranking of scholarships in terms of awareness and recognition by all ‘A’ level and IB diploma graduates and final year polytechnic students. 

12.          To sustain this interest and excite more to join us, MOHH has launched a series of new scholarship initiatives to expose aspiring students to the different healthcare professions. These included the Healthcare Immersion Programme (HIP) that is designed to seed early interest in public healthcare amongst JC1 and Year 2 polytechnic students, as well as the Healthcare Attachment Programme (HAP) for graduating JC and polytechnic students. These are intended as experiential and interactive platforms for our students to find out more about public healthcare careers through job shadowing, policy discussions, engagement sessions and learning journeys.

13.          Even more important for us in this journey has been the strong advocacy by our school principals and teachers, as well as the trust and support of parents.  Your parents, principals and teachers have played an instrumental role in developing and nurturing you into fine young men and women, and instilling in you the right values, spirit of service, and passion to care for others, beyond yourself. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude to this special group of people for moulding our scholarship recipients to be the future of Singapore’s public healthcare.

Our 2015 Healthcare Scholarship Recipients

14.          Our healthcare scholars come from diverse backgrounds but they all share a common desire to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Their compassion and empathy are illustrated through their passion to serve Singaporeans and provide them with the best care.

15.          One such example is Ms Charlynne Geraldene Nerva. With determination and passion, she has completed her NITEC and diploma course in Nursing with stellar results in Nanyang Polytechnic, and was in the Nursing Director’s list throughout her diploma course. Inspired by her sister who is also a nurse and with support from her family, she has achieved her aim of obtaining a Healthcare Merit Scholarship (HMS) to pursue her degree in Nursing at the Singapore Institute of Technology.  As an example of Charlynne’s dedication to her profession, she has sought to learn Hokkien and Mandarin so that she can better converse and build a strong rapport with her patients.

16.          Another good example is Ms Charmaine Lee, from Raffles Institution.  Charmaine will be studying Medical Social Work at the National University of Singapore under our Healthcare Merit Scholarship.  Her interest in healthcare started since she was a child as her mother has been serving as a medical social worker at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Since young, her mother has involved her in community work and shared with her interesting aspects of her work, which eventually inspired Charmaine to take up a career in social work.

17.          Mr Phang Ye Sheng, was an active student leader and ambassador of Ngee Ann Polytechnic. With a strong passion in Engineering, he has designed innovative devices to help his grandfather who lost one of his legs to diabetes to improve his mobility. In recognition of his achievements, Ye Sheng was awarded the prestigious Ngee Ann Polytechnic Engineering scholarship for three consecutive years and also won the Students’ Design Award (Merit) by the Singapore Biomedical Engineering Society for his outstanding final year project. He will be pursuing his passion to study Bioengineering at the National University of Singapore under the Healthcare Administration Scholarship.

18.          I hope that Charlynne, Charmaine and Ye Sheng, together with all our other scholarship recipients today, will motivate and inspire more young talented Singaporeans to join public healthcare.

Healthcare Leaders of Tomorrow

19.        As a healthcare scholar, you will play an important role in leading transformation efforts and shaping the future of Singapore’s public healthcare system.

20.          The award of our Healthcare scholarship is not only a recognition of your achievements.  It represents the trust and responsibility we place on you to learn and do well in your studies, be an exemplary role model and return to serve as a healthcare professional and grow to become a future leader.  To do so, you will need a clear Head – to master the professional knowledge and expertise required for your profession- , steady Hands - to apply your knowledge and skills to help others – and finally a caring Heart – to always be ready to help, empathise and care for others.

21.        As you embark on this new journey to pursue your studies, I encourage you to make full use of the opportunities that are given to you through our scholarships, to develop yourself both academically and personally, to network with others and learn from the best in your respective professions. While your university education will give you the best professional knowledge and prepare you well in your respective disciplines, you should also stay grounded and always remind yourselves of the reason why you have chosen this path. We hope you will make a positive difference in the healthcare sector in time to come.

22.        We will continue to support, partner and guide you in your journey ahead. Beyond your studies, we are committed to developing you professionally in your chosen field of study and to support you in advancing your career and developing your full potential.

Conclusion

23.          To all of you, our new scholarship recipients, congratulations again and welcome to our public healthcare family. 

24.          We are all looking forward to the day that you return to our family, ready to serve and help develop Singapore’s healthcare system and help all Singaporeans to live well, live long and with peace of mind.

25.          I wish you all the best on your journey ahead. Thank you.

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