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More being done to develop palliative care services: MOH

Ministry of Health said it recognises the need to further develop and raise awareness of end-of-life issues and palliative care services, and says more initiatives are in the pipeline to address the issue.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (June 19) responded to the Lien Foundation survey findings on palliative care in Singapore, saying it recognises the need to further develop such services and raise awareness of end-of-life issues.

The survey findings reported by the Lien Foundation on Wednesday showed that almost all doctors and nurses consider hospice palliative care important for those with life-threatening illnesses, but there is insufficient training for healthcare professionals and trained staff to offer such care.

In response, MOH said manpower training and development is key to further developing palliative care services in Singapore and that it has "made some progress in this area in recent years". 

The number of nurses trained in palliative care, for example, has been increasing from 23 in 2009 to 594 at the end of 2013, it said. For doctors, the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine launched its Graduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine for the 2014-2015 academic year, which was fully subscribed, it said. 

The course aims to train doctors, especially family physicians, to be competent and confident in managing patients with palliative care issues, both in the clinic and home settings, the ministry added.

"Nevertheless, we are aware that we need to do more as we raise the awareness of end-of-life issues and palliative care services," a MOH spokesperson said.

In addition, MOH said it is working through the Regional Health Systems framework to build the capabilities of primary and community care providers.

It cited the Project Care initiative by Tan Tock Seng Hospital as an example, which has been running with MOH funding since 2009. Through the programme, Tan Tock Seng Hospital provides end-of-life care support to six nursing homes in the central area, as well as provides training in geriatric and palliative care and advanced care planning to nursing home staff.

The MOH spokesperson added the ministry will provide more details of its plans for the palliative sector later this month at the Singapore Palliative Care Conference.

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