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26 Nov 2019

16th Nov 2019

Mr Ng Ser Miang, Chairman, Thomson Medical Group

Prof Dato’ Dr Khalid, Chairman, Thomson Medical Centre Life Sciences

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen


1     I am pleased to be here tonight to celebrate your 40th anniversary.


Thomson Medical’s History and Achievements

2     Thomson Medical Centre has indeed gone a long way in the 40 years. Over the years, Thomson Medical’s service offerings have evolved from being a small niche hospital, operated out of Dr Cheng’s bungalow, to a full fledge hospital to include preventive healthcare, wellness services and products, and of course, specialist clinics to support the needs of the whole family, which is important because we not just look after those who are ill, but we need to go upstream, to look after those who are well.

3      Today, Thomson Medical is Singapore’s largest private women and children’s health service provider. Apart from the iconic hospital along Thomson Road, Thomson Medical has added to its range of medical and surgical services. These include cancer, dental, Traditional Chinese Medicine, health screening, imaging and wellness, just to name a few.


Public-private partnership in addressing national healthcare challenges

    The healthcare needs of Singapore and Singaporeans have evolved over the last 40 years, as I am sure you all know being in the frontline of healthcare services. We face a rapidly ageing population. We have about 420,000 of those who are 65 and above today. In ten years’ time, by 2030, that number will double to 900,000. In fact, more than double. The rate of growth and the rate of ageing is something that is very worrying for us, and as we are now ageing, two problems will arise – our economic workforce will shrink and incidences of healthcare disease burden will rise. The demand for healthcare will no doubt increase significantly.


Supporting the national disease burden

5     Cancer is among the top contributors to Singapore’s combined burden of early death and disability, and one key focus area for the government has been cervical cancer. From 2011 to 2015, about 200 new cases were diagnosed annually and around 70 die of the disease every year. That is something we need to work on, and we need to work on with healthcare providers like you, to try to stop, to try to stem.

6     This cancer, which is caused by infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), can be prevented with vaccination and early screening. To bring about more comprehensive coverage of HPV vaccination, MOH has started to offer fully-subsidised HPV vaccination in schools. We start at the right ages, with the right crowd. In fact, it is not just the girls, as far as possible, we also encourage the boys, where possible, to do so.

7      MOH has also introduced a more accurate and convenient HPV screening test for cervical cancer for women aged 30 years and above, and we all know that screening and the enhanced subsidies have become more accessible through the Screen for Life programme at the CHAS GP clinics.

8     As Thomson Medical expands into provision of cancer care, I am sure it will continue to help to support our efforts in early prevention, early detection, better treatment and of course, better disease management for cancer-related diseases. This no doubt helps to increase life expectancy, but you all know that Singapore’s life expectancy is actually pretty good – 85 for women, 84 for men – but it is not just the life expectancy, but how long you live in healthy life. I think that is the challenge that all of us in this room will have: how do we make sure that Singaporeans not just live longer, but live longer better as well.

9     Apart from strategies we have at targeting specific diseases, you all have heard about our “Three Beyonds” at MOH so let me just say a little bit about that. The initiatives that drive vaccination and early screening that I mentioned is one of the numerous programmes we have to contribute to moving Beyond Healthcare to Health. As I mentioned earlier, how do we go upstream to treat the well, to make sure the well remain well for as long as possible.

10     The “Three Beyonds”, I must say, are not the sole purview of the government or the public healthcare sector alone. There are opportunities for private sector operators, such as Thomson Medical, to complement the efforts that we have made at the government level.


Beyond Hospital to Community

11     Second, Beyond Hospital to Community, how do we make sure our well remain well, but also remain in the community – that as far as possible, they are treated in the community, they remain cared for within the community and within the family setting that they know; those people who are for and love them the most. How do we make sure that those who are not well, need treatment, can remain in the community and be treated for that. For that, MOH has launched the Primary Care Networks (PCN). The scheme was launched in 2018 to better support private GPs in coming together to form networks in clusters within the community to provide more holistic chronic disease management situated within the community, close to where the services might be needed.

12    I encourage all private healthcare providers, including Thomson Medical, to continue broadening their range of service available, and to make sure we have right-siting of care within the community.


Beyond Quality to Value

13     Finally, Beyond Quality to Value. MOH has developed more guidelines to help healthcare professionals and providers so that they can make use of them to deliver care that is both clinically effective and also efficient. It is not just what is the best care, in terms of medical treatment alone, but what is the best care with the right kind of value as well in providing the care.To do that, we established the Agency for Care Effectiveness (ACE) in 2015 to provide guidance on what is the best value and what is the care guidance for cost effectiveness.


Giving children the best start in life

14      As a leader in women and children’s health, Thomson Medical is uniquely placed to help people get started on their wellness programme from the time of birth and of course, through the various stages throughout life. We encourage Thomson Medical to support parents in this journey. Mr Ng raised some points earlier on going into IT and software, and ensuring we reach out to young parents and their parents.

15     We have also encouraged private hospitals to adopt the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). It is a certification, which is part of the global effort founded and supported by UNICEF and also the World Health Organization. I am happy to note that Thomson Medical is indeed working towards obtaining the BFHI certification, and I wish you every success.


Supporting Rare Disease Fund

16     Finally, I want to touch on the Rare Disease Fund. I am so heartened by efforts taken to support the Fund. The fund looks after mainly children – not only but mainly children – who are stricken by rare diseases that have a significant cost burden. The financial implications are very high and it is through the fund that we are able to help to sustain them.

17     Many of these patients will require treatment for life and often the cost of the treatment runs in the tens of thousands a month alone. This effort with the RDF will indeed give patients access to treatment options that were previously unaffordable and unattainable even after government subsidies.

18     The Government provides $3 matching for every $1 in public donation, and all donations will be eligible for a 250% tax exemption. In addition, the Government funds the operational cost and expenses of the administration of the fund entirely so that every dollar that is put into the Fund will go towards the patients.

19        Over $20 million has been raised to date, from public funds. I am very heartened by that, and tonight’s efforts by Thomson will help us in that objective. Together with 3-to-1 government matching, we now have a Fund that approximately stands at $90 million. That has helped us to kickstart the Fund.

20         That is why earlier this month, the RDF Committee had approved the expansion of the coverage of the RDF to include a sixth life-saving medicine which treats Pompe Disease.

21      As more funds are raised, we expect to be able to expand the Fund to other treatments and other types of medications, but we do it with some circumspection and with some prudence because we know that it is a lifetime commitment. For each child, each patient who receives the funding, we expect to be able to fund them for life. We are very careful about it and we of course rely a lot on donations and efforts such as this.


Closing

22       Finally, in closing, let me congratulate all of you. Singapore is only 54 years old. 40 years is a long time but I am very heartened that so much has changed but yet so little has changed as well. So little has changed meaning the value system, the striving of Thomson Medical to be the best in women and children treatment and medical facilities. Those core values have not changed and I am very heartened by that.

23     I encourage Thomson Medical Group to focus on patient care, focus on better outcomes. Those always remain the key priorities but supported by a strong, stable, long-term looking and with good visionary in the management, and I am sure Thomson Medical will go beyond that. I challenge Thomson Medical to do even better in the coming decades and beyond, and I look forward to being here to celebrate those achievements with you as well.

24      For tonight, congratulations once again to all of you. Thank you very much for inviting me here. It is a privilege, and I wish all of you every success.


Thank you.




Category: Speeches