Committee of Supply – Ministry of Health

05 Mar 2020 3 min read

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Healthcare spending in Singapore will continue to increase largely due to new facilities and the costs and the demands of an ageing population.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong added the higher use of facilities and services is also partly the result of making care more accessible and affordable for all, and also partly due to earlier diagnosis and closer monitoring and follow-ups for medical conditions.

Mr Gan said, “As our population ages and grows, demand for healthcare services also increases.”

Senior Ministers of State for Health Amy Khor, Lam Pin Min and Edwin Tong also shared the plans the Ministry has for Singapore.

Support for caregivers of mental health patients

A structured system of support for caregivers of people with mental health conditions will be piloted, to support caregivers of people with mental health conditions.

Dr Amy Khor shared that hospitals and community partners will provide caregivers with information such as disease progression and expected care needs upon first diagnosis of their loved ones.

They will also link up caregivers with the necessary health, financial and social support services.

In addition, responding to questions regarding availability of mental health services for people with disabilities, Dr Khor reiterated that mental health services at polyclinics and general practitioners are available to all Singaporeans, irrespective of factors such as disabilities or gender identity, and that  sign language translators are able to provide counsellors with the necessary support to help patients with hearing loss and mental health conditions.

New healthcare facilities

Singapore’s 12th public general hospital will be built in the east by 2030.

The polyclinic network will also be expanded to 32 by then. Three new polyclinics will open this year in Bukit Panjang, Eunos and Kallang, with Sembawang opening one next year.

Khatib, Tampines North, Serangoon, Kaki Bukit, Tengah and Yew Tee polyclinics is expected to open by 2026. Bishan and Bidadari polyclinics will open by 2030.

Alexandra Hospital will also be redeveloped with greater access and land area, with the first phase of redevelopment expected to complete by 2030.

Pilot mental health programme for youth

The Integrated Youth Service which will be piloted in Woodlands at a community space, Care Corner.

This is where at-risk youths can go for coordinated mental health and social support services in the community.

Dr Lam also shared that Care Corner will be working with the Institute of Mental Health, MOH and the Agency of Integrated Care on the new programme.

Nutrition labels for drinks

Pre-packaged non-alcoholic drinks with high sugar or saturated fat content will be required to display a nutrition label from the end of 2021.

The labels will have grades A to D, D being the unhealthiest. D-grade drinks will also be banned from being advertised on all media platforms.

Similar measures will also apply to freshly prepared drinks such as bubble tea drinks from traditional medicine halls.

These measures are part of Singapore’s war on diabetes.

Higher salaries and incentives for community nurses

The Government will set aside $150 million over the next three years to meet the demand of community nurses. This sum will allow institutions to improve the competitiveness of salaries of community nurses, who take care of patients outside the hospital setting.

Dr Khor said, “We project that it will benefit up to 4,000 local nurses and support care staff, if there is full take-up.”

She added that the authorities are eager for non-practising nurses to come back to work, and they may undergo a refresher course under the Return to Nursing scheme. Those who return to the community care sector are eligible for a retention bonus of up to $5,000.

Updates on Covid-19

Mr Gan said that Singapore needs to prepare to live with Covid-19 for a long time, and brace for more new cases due to the number of infected cases outside China that are growing.

Singapore will have to continuously adjust how it deals with the evolving situation, so life can go on while appropriate precautions are put in place.

Mr Gan also noted that it is important to be transparent and share information known as soon as possible, to preserve the trust between the people and Government.

“We must continue the good practices that have proven effective in reducing the spread of infectious diseases – such as staying home when unwell and during the period covered by medical certificate, and practising good personal hygiene. We should also maintain high hygiene standards in our hawker centres and public toilets. This will strengthen our collective resilience against Covid-19 as well as other infectious diseases, while going about our daily lives as much as possible,” he said.

Photo from Ministry of Health