Speech by Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor at Home Nursing Foundation's "Portraits of Love" exhibition, 22 April 2016

Ms Priscylla Shaw, President of the Home Nursing Foundation

Ms Karen Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Home Nursing Foundation

Dr Jennifer Lee, Chairman of AIC

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen 

1.         Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you here today. Let me first congratulate the Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) on its 40th anniversary, marking four decades of dedication and service to those who need care in Singapore. When HNF was first established, it had only 11 nurses. Today, HNF is Singapore’s largest provider of home nursing care, making a positive difference in the lives of the patients it serves. It is indeed inspiring to see many of these stories told in this beautiful Portraits of Love Exhibition. 

2.         One of the stories you will see at this exhibition is that of 61-year-old Mr Seah See Seng. Mr Seah was severely injured in an accident in his late 30s and was paralysed from the waist down. After the accident, he fell into depression, and his health deteriorated over time. He was referred to HNF in 2004 after being discharged from the hospital. HNF’s nurses not only saw to Mr Seah’s medical needs, but also befriended him and became a source of emotional support. 

3.         I am happy to share that today, Mr Seah has a much more positive outlook in life. He is able to move around independently on his motorised wheelchair and has become a pillar of support for people around him. He even helps other disabled people repair their wheelchairs! It is this positive spirit that won him the Inspirational Patient Award last year.  

Making Home and Community Care a Focus 

4.         The Ministry of Health (MOH) is committed to helping our seniors to age in place with their loved ones, just like Mr Seah. Our aim is to make home and community care a first option for seniors so that they can continue to age amongst their loved ones in the community. With the help of our partners, we have been doing so along three thrusts. 

5.         First, we have been ramping up capacity so that care is more accessible. We have expanded our home care capacity significantly over the years. Today, we have the capacity to serve 6,900 seniors, an increase of 400 from 2014. Currently, we do not have a wait time for home care. HNF has played a substantial role in this. HNF alone served about 2,600 cases at home last year. HNF will be further expanding to serve up to 3,900 patients by 2018. By partnering providers like HNF, we target to grow home care capacity to eventually serve 10,000 seniors by 2020 to meet the increasing demands. 

6.         Second, we want to provide better quality of care for our seniors at home. Last year, we introduced the Guidelines for Home Care which serve as a reference for home care providers to work towards delivering quality care for our seniors. In fact, HNF was a member of the workgroup that developed these Guidelines. 

7.         We encourage our service providers to take on quality improvement projects through funds such as the Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund (TBCHF). HNF, for instance, is currently receiving funding from TBCHF and MOH to build up capabilities to deliver comprehensive care to meet the varied needs of seniors. Under this project, HNF has enhanced its care model such that clients are cared for by a multidisciplinary team comprising doctors, nurses, therapists and medical social workers who work together to coordinate care to seniors. Efforts like these help to create a more responsive, patient-centric system of care. 

8.         Third, we are committed to keeping home and community care affordable for Singaporeans. Seniors who use these services are eligible for subsidies of up to 80%. MOH has also introduced a range of schemes to support families taking care of frail seniors at home. The Seniors’ Mobility & Enabling Fund (SMF), for instance, provides subsidies for mobility aids, home care consumables and transport to and from eldercare centres.

New Home and Community Care Masterplan 

9.         We are giving our ongoing efforts an added push with a new Home and Community Care Masterplan which was announced last week. 

10.       We have started a new comprehensive training programme to equip family caregivers and their domestic helpers with the knowledge and skills to look after their frail seniors at home. In the coming months, we will also work with some employment agencies to train domestic helpers before they are deployed to families, so that they can be more prepared and better equipped to provide care. We are also working with VWOs and grassroots organisations to galvanise a corp of befrienders to visit seniors at home on a regular basis, keep an eye out for any changes in their health conditions, and provide feedback to their home care providers. 

11.       We also have an integrated home and day care package. When senior are feeling less well they can be cared at home and when they are better, they can go to day centre to participate in activities. 

Conclusion 

12.       We will need the support of partners like HNF for new as well as existing initiatives as we work hard to meet the needs of our ageing population. Even as we celebrate HNF’s 40th anniversary today, we look forward to closer partnership with HNF in bringing care closer to more seniors in the decades to come.  On this note, I would like to thank HNF, AIC and other partners for organising this meaningful exhibition. I would also like to encourage everyone here to invite your friends and family to take part in, and be inspired by, the patients’ life stories. 

13. Thank you.

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