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As population ages, Government committed to ensuring affordable, quality healthcare: DPM Heng

As population ages, Government committed to ensuring affordable, quality healthcare: DPM Heng

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking at Singapore General Hospital on Mar 29.

SINGAPORE: As Singapore’s population ages, the Government remains committed to making sure citizens have access to affordable and quality healthcare, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Mar 29) as he marked Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) bicentennial celebration. 

In his speech, Mr Heng said that the future of healthcare in Singapore will be shaped by its people and by the “basic commitment” of the Government to help all Singaporeans keep active and healthy, and to have access to “affordable, appropriate and quality” healthcare should they need it.

“This is a core tenet of our social compact, and we must continue to uphold as our population ages,” he said.  

Mr Heng pointed out that by 2030, one-quarter of Singapore’s population will be aged 65 and above. 

As such, he noted that there has been additional healthcare support for the Pioneer and Merdeka Generation. 

READ: Commentary: It is high time for a Ministry on Ageing Issues

“But as our population continues to age, we will need to redouble our efforts in health promotion, and expand our healthcare capacity,” he added. “This includes expanding our polyclinic network and building more acute and community hospitals. And we are redeveloping the SGH campus in Outram.”

Mr Heng also stressed the need for everybody to play a part to ensure that quality and affordable healthcare is provided in a “sustainable” way.

READ: Ageing population, medical advancements among factors that contribute to rising healthcare costs: Koh Poh Koon

“All Singaporeans, including our seniors, must place greater emphasis on staying active and healthy, both in body and mind,” he said.

“As a society, we must take greater collective responsibility, whether it is through social risk pooling, such as Medishield Life and Careshield Life, or through the taxes that we each contribute so that we can build a fairer and more equitable society for all.”

Mr Heng also said that the Government is also committed to making a career in healthcare attractive. 

READ: Salary increase of up to 14% for nurses in public healthcare sector

"Recently at Budget 2021, I announced that nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists in our public healthcare institutions can look forward to a salary increase," he said.

"I know (Health) Minister Gan (Kim Yong) in MOH (Ministry of Health) is working with SGH and all healthcare employers to further enhance the career pathways for healthcare staff, and to broaden your options for further development. So I hope you will continue to care for your patients, look after yourselves, and find a career in healthcare meaningful and rewarding."

A MAJOR ROLE FOR HEALTHCARE INSTITUTIONS

Looking ahead, Mr Heng said that healthcare institutions like SGH have a “major” role to play.

“Around the world, societies have found it challenging to achieve healthcare that is of quality, and yet affordable. But we have achieved both objectives so far, by making the most of our spending,” he explained.

“And we can continue to do so by pressing on with the healthcare transformation efforts that (Health) Minister Gan Kim Yong has been embarking on.”

READ: Singaporeans to receive COVID-19 subsidy to offset proposed increase in MediShield Life premiums

Mr Heng pointed out that there are three areas of transformation. 

The shift from healthcare to health is one, he added, explaining that Singapore must continue to focus on preventive health and healthy living, shifting the focus from treating ill health only when it occurs, to promoting health and vitality. 

Another area of transformation is the shift towards greater integration of care, he said.

“We must take a systems approach to ensure the right-siting of healthcare, including shifting more care from acute hospitals to the community setting,” Mr Heng said.

“Within each institution, we must take a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach in caring for our patients.”

There must also be the continued pursuit of healthcare innovation, said Mr Heng.

He noted that much of the improvements to health outcomes and cost efficiency in past decades have been partly due to Singapore’s investments in science and technology.

These investments have also contributed "significantly" to the fight against COVID-19, added Mr Heng.

In addition, the pandemic has brought about a fourth area of transformation - that is the resilience and robustness of Singapore’s healthcare system, he said.

“Two hundred years ago, infectious diseases were the top public health concern. Today, as we commemorate your bicentennial, another infectious disease – COVID-19 – is topmost on everyone’s mind,” Mr Heng added.

“So as we learn to live with the virus, we must continue to press on with healthcare transformation and innovation. 

"The pandemic will end at some point, but there is no stopping our ageing population. Your ability to adapt and innovate, while showing care for your patients, will determine whether we can deliver quality healthcare care while keeping cost affordable.”

SGH's celebration, named “Rooted in Excellence”, was held at the hospital's new Bicentennial Garden which Mr Heng officially opened by planting a tree.

Source: CNA/mt(gs)

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