Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the Official Opening of St. Andrew’s Nursing Home (Henderson), 27 February 2018
The Right Reverend Rennis Ponniah, President of St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital and Singapore Anglican Community Services
Board members of SAMH and SACS
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good morning. I am delighted to join you today to celebrate the official opening of St. Andrew’s Nursing Home and Senior Care Centre at Henderson or SANH (Henderson).
Growing Capacity for Aged Care Services
2. This year’s Budget touched on how the government will continue to foster a caring and cohesive society to better care for our seniors, while creating opportunities for our young by building a vibrant and innovative economy.
3. Today, 1 in 7 Singaporeans is aged 65 or above. By 2030, this number will grow to around 1 in 4 Singaporeans. We must plan ahead and prepare for our ageing demographic. As the Chinese saying goes – ????,????. It means that when previous generations plant trees, future generations get to benefit from the shade.
4. To cater to the demand for aged care services, the Ministry of Health has been steadily ramping up nursing home and day care capacity. The addition of 255 nursing home beds and 60 day places at this facility is part of this continuous effort to increase the capacity of aged care services, to support a growing senior population. Since 2011, we have expanded nursing home capacity by more than 50% to 14,900 beds and more than doubled day care capacity to 5,000 day places in 2017. Government’s investments in healthcare and social expenditure will have to increase in the coming decades, so that we support individuals and families to better prepare for the future. However, we must also take the appropriate fiscal and policy measures to ensure that we do so without unnecessarily burdening the future generations or depleting our reserves.
Strengthening Care in the Community
5. This expansion in aged care facilities and services has made such services more convenient and accessible to our senior population and their caregivers.Mdm Esther Tan is an example. She has Parkinson’s disease and other health issues. Her husband is working full-time while their son is serving National Service and their daughter still schooling. As a result, the family finds it very challenging to take care of Mdm Tan at home. Here at SANH (Henderson), Mdm Tan is able to receive appropriate nursing care. With the assurance that Mdm Tan is being well taken care of at the nursing home, the Tan family has peace of mind and can visit Mdm Tan frequently as they live nearby, while continuing with their commitments at work and school.
6. Increasingly, our nursing homes provide more than residential care. By co-locating senior care centres with nursing homes, we allow the operators to support our seniors with a range of seamless care options. For instance, seniors can return home when they are better, but continue to be supported with day care. Seniors being cared for under the senior care centre can also access short stays in the nursing home, if their caregivers require respite. By providing different care options, we can better support seniors and meet their needs.
7. As we expand the capacity and enrich the scope of services of our nursing homes, we also want to improve the quality of our nursing home designs. We are also designing our nursing homes to be welcoming and to invite the larger community to engage with seniors in our homes. For example, SANH (Henderson) has been designed to integrate with its surroundings and provide opportunities for community activities to engage residents. The building sports cheerful facade panels. It also includes a landscape garden, equipped with exercise equipment and open to the community for social and recreational use. I understand that the availability of exercise equipment has even motivated some residents who stay in the vicinity to enter the nursing home to exercise regularly!
8. We have also been encouraging our nursing homes to rise to the challenge of raising productivity through innovative models of care. I am happy to know that SANH (Henderson) is embarking on innovative solutions to target falls prevention. The Home is currently test-bedding a sensing system which detects movement and spikes in ambient noise, and can alert staff of possible fall incidents through their mobile devices. This allows for more effective monitoring of residents in areas that are out of nursing sight where residents are more prone to falls, resulting in fewer care staff to be deployed especially at night. I understand that the Home is also exploring similar initiatives with Singapore Institute of Technology to further reduce falls among residents. These are early days still, but I hope that we can learn from these innovations along the way, and share best practices across the sector.
9. I am heartened that neighbours have come forward to volunteer at the nursing home. They include Mrs Esther Tan and Ms Sandra Tan, who taught the foreign care staff local languages so that they can better communicate with the residents; Ms Soh Sun Oh, who comes weekly to encourage residents during their therapy sessions; Mrs Alison Burdis, who joins residents in social activities; and Ms Wong Wee Ping who conducts cognitive exercise programmes for seniors at the senior care centre. Many of you started as volunteers at the nursing home but now, you have become friends and family to the seniors here.
10. It is encouraging to also know that the Home collaborates with schools and youth groups to organise various events for their residents and strengthen inter-generational bonding. For example, Secondary 4 students from St. Margaret’s Secondary School shared an afternoon with residents by bringing them on an outing to the neighbourhood coffee shop and provision shop for a meal and some light shopping. Undergraduate students from the NUS Students’ Community Service Club visited the residents as part of their annual student camp, where they took part in craft activities and a sports relay together with the residents. Last December, kindergarten children from PCF Sparkletots across the road at Block 44 Telok Blangah Drive, as well as children and youths from the Church of the Good Shepherd, visited the residents on a few occasions with lively performances and distribution of handmade Christmas cards and gifts. Their presence and energy add to the overall atmosphere in the Home, and go a long way towards our effort to build more communities of care over time to help seniors to age well.
11. In closing, we are investing more resources to prepare for our ageing society. Expenditures will rise, but we will have to meet these needs in a sustainable way. If we can marshal our resources and work together, we can build a better Singapore for generations to come.
12. The Government will also continue our strong partnership with VWO providers in caring for our seniors. On this note, I would like to thank St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital for holding true to your vision of letting your light shine. For more than a century, you have recognised and responded well to a multitude of needs in the community. We look forward to more years of working together to care for seniors in need.
13. I would also like to thank Mr. Sam Tan, Adviser to Radin Mas Grassroots Organisations and his team of grassroots leaders. They worked tirelessly with SANH (Henderson) to reach out to the residents of Henderson and Telok Blangah estates to understand their needs, and to work with us to incorporate the feedback into our nursing home design to meet these needs.
14. Once again, congratulations to St. Andrew’s Nursing Home and Senior Care Centre (Henderson) on your official opening and a busy yet fruitful first year. May you continue to carry out your mission purposefully, providing good quality eldercare services to all who are in need. Thank you.
Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore