Channel NewsAsia

Lam Pin Min, Denise Phua outline priorities in their new roles

Dr Lam Pin Min will be made Minister of State for Health on August 1 while Ms Denise Phua will replace Mr Sam Tan as Mayor of Central Singapore on May 27.

SINGAPORE: Two backbenchers were given new posts as part of changes to political appointments announced last month.

Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Sengkang West SMC, will be made Minister of State for Health on August 1.

Ms Denise Phua, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, will replace Mr Sam Tan as Mayor of Central Singapore on May 27.

Channel NewsAsia speaks to the two new appointees on their immediate priorities for their new posts.

For Dr Lam, eldercare, end of life issues and the emergence of infectious diseases will be his immediate priorities as soon as he assumes his new appointment.

As Singapore braces itself for a silver tsunami, end of life issues will be in the spotlight, said Dr Lam.

He said: "I think talking about death and end of life issues seems to be a taboo subject even right now. And people are very reluctant to talk about this issue.

"But this is something that we have to face up to as the population ages.

"So I think there may be a need to even have a national conversation to engage Singaporeans at large to understand what they want, and how do they see end of life issues."

He added: "We need to raise awareness of some of the various possibilities and services that are available which include palliative care, home care, nursing care or even hospice care.

"I think many of these issues need to be discussed. We also need to understand what Singaporeans are thinking about and what they are keen to see happen in managing end of life issues."

To address this, he said more training for geriatric and palliative medicine is key as well as having more trained professionals, who can have such discussions with family members.

Dr Lam added: "Secondly, we need to look at the non-medical aspect, which is the social services available. It can come in the form of home care services, eldercare centres, hospice care, nursing homes as well as palliative care.

"I think all this needs to be addressed in a holistic manner and this would probably take time."

Eldercare will be another area of focus, and Dr Lam said he would like to achieve three key thrusts - ageing in place, ageing in peace and ageing with a purpose.

He said:" When it comes to ageing in place, I think the right siting of care is very important.

"Whether the elderly would like to age at home, whether it is going to be in a nursing home or even home care services. I think these are issues that need to be ironed out.

"I think the Pioneer Generation Package, as well as the
soon-to-be-implemented MediShield Life will sort of address the healthcare cost for the elderly. This will hopefully give them the peace of mind.

"The last will be ageing with a purpose. We want our elderly to have an active lifestyle even as they age and there are many activities they can do together with the People's Association to actually help the seniors to age with a purpose."

After serving 20 years in the medical profession, Dr Lam admitted it wasn't an easy decision to take up his new role.

He said: "It is truly an honour to be asked to serve in the Ministry but at the same time it is a dilemma as a doctor; I have invested so much of my life in healthcare and it will be something that I really miss, especially seeing my patients, the little children that I have been treating - many of whom I have been treating since they were born.

"It is indeed a difficult decision; nonetheless for the better good of Singapore and the healthcare system, I think it's something, a challenge I would like to take up."

Ms Denise Phua, the incoming Mayor of Central Singapore, was also recently appointed chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Social and Family Development.

This is in addition to her role as GPC deputy chairman for education.

Her priority is to add value to the current signature programmes to further extend their reach to the vulnerable.

And key to achieving this is to integrate residents further.

She said: "We have the largest number of elderly people in Singapore gathered here (Central Singapore). We probably have the largest number, as well, of residents - almost a million - in our district and the largest number of rental flats - out of 140, we probably have two-thirds of them in our district.

"And in District 10 - in central district - we have a big group of people with high net worth. It's a very, very interesting district and what we really want to do is to try to bring these people together to make sure that the more able, are able to help those who may need more help - the more disadvantaged, the more vulnerable in our district."

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