Speech by Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the Opening Ceremony of the 5th Singapore Rehabilitation Conference, at SingHealth Academia, on 7 September 2017, 8.00am

Professor Kenneth Kwek, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore General Hospital, 

Professor Fong Kok Yong, Chairman Medical Board, Singapore General Hospital, 

Associate Professor Ng Yee Sien, Organising Chairman, 

Distinguished Speakers and Guests

 

INTRODUCTION 

1.         Good morning. I am happy to be here at the 5th Singapore Rehabilitation Conference. This conference is indeed a useful platform to bring together rehabilitation experts from various disciplines, academics and students to share the best practices and latest innovations in rehabilitation.

 

BEYOND HOSPITAL TO COMMUNITY – STRENGTHENING REHABILITATION IN THE COMMUNITY 

2.         Singapore is ageing rapidly. By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 years and above, nearly double that of today. More patients, especially elderly patients with multiple chronic conditions, may face functional deterioration that will require multi-disciplinary care. While we should continue to provide good quality treatment of these conditions or diseases, an equally important aspect is, to ensure that a person regain physical function and remain independent so that they can continue to have a good quality of life. Therefore, demand for rehabilitation is expected to increase significantly. While we provide wide-ranging rehabilitation services in our acute hospitals, we need to do more to shift the gravity of care into the community so that patients can be cared for in an environment that they are familiar with. We are doing this in several ways. 

3.         First, we are shifting our efforts further upstream. Early rehabilitation intervention has proven to be effective, especially for elderly patients. Earlier rehabilitation therapy can be invaluable in reducing functional decline and the need for a longer inpatient stay. 

4.         Second, we are building more Community Hospitals that will serve as ‘hubs’ of rehabilitation. Community Hospitals offer an environment that is conducive for recuperation and better prepare patients in returning to the community. This includes Outram Community Hospital and the Integrated Care Hub, which will provide a suite of services in helping patients optimise functional recovery and resume their daily activities as much as possible. This will range from helping stroke patients regain their strength to walk, to patients who suffer from traumatic limb loss whose complex needs may require the use of rehabilitative technology.    

5.         Third, to make it more convenient for the elderly to access rehabilitation services near their home, we have also improved the accessibility of Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy services at Day Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) and Senior Care Centres (SCCs). There are currently more than 70 such centres located across Singapore offering rehabilitation services closer to home. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is working towards further increasing the number of SCCs within Nursing Homes, polyclinics, Community Centres and HDB void decks to make care even more accessible. The centres will support patients in making a smoother transition back to their own lives and homes. Instead of staying in the hospitals to recuperate, it allows patients to continue their recovery process in an environment familiar to them. This is particularly important to seniors, who sometimes choose to forgo rehabilitation to avoid a longer hospital stay. 

6.         Fourth, we are working with rehabilitation providers across the various settings to develop closer links to ensure a more holistic and seamless transition from hospital to the community. Patient-centric care is made possible with the efforts of a multi-disciplinary team working towards a common goal, holistically looking at the needs of patients and determining each step that needs to be taken by the patient and family to transition back home smoothly. It is heartening that we are seeing more of such collaborations. One such example is the integrated care pathway for hip fractures which Dr Chong Tsung Wei will share more on during his talk. The Regional Health System (RHS) serves as the anchor, identifying patients in the Emergency Department (ED) early and facilitating earlier surgery and timely transfer to the CH for further rehabilitation.  With the increasing recognition that care does not happen in-silo, we hope to see more of you working in community settings to provide rehabilitation services to our patients.

 

BEYOND QUALITY TO VALUE – IMPROVING PATIENT OUTCOMES AND PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY 

7.         The advancement in technology will go hand in hand with healthcare delivery. Rehabilitation technology, including robotics, electrical muscle stimulation, tools tapping on virtual reality, and wearables are already transforming the way we deliver rehabilitation today. Not only are we improving patient outcomes, we are also working towards raising the productivity of health care. Take for example, the use of tele-rehabilitation. The use of such a platform has allowed us to bring therapy to patients within the comfort of their home. This has been especially helpful to patients with mobility issues and whose caregivers are not able to bring them to centres and hospitals for follow-ups. More importantly, it allows healthcare professionals to focus on more complex rehabilitation care. 

8.         On this note, I am heartened by the theme of today’s conference. “Integrating Rehabilitation Care: From Hospital to Community” which underpins our efforts in developing a more sustainable healthcare system for the future. As we continue to work together in shifting care beyond the hospital to the community and bringing care closer to home, we should always keep our patients at the heart of our mission by providing cost-effective and appropriate care. 

9.         In closing, I would like to thank the organisers for putting together this conference. I trust the sessions over the next two days will engage and inspire us to work towards enhancing rehabilitation care in Singapore. I wish all of you an enriching conference. Thank you.

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