The Ministry of Health (MOH) will extend the scope of palliative care in Singapore, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Saturday.
Speaking to about 550 people at a conference on palliative care, which focuses on improving quality of life for patients with terminal conditions, Gan said more services for palliative care at home would be provided as majority of patients preferred being near loved ones and having their independence.
Due to the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, patients who will benefit from home services will not only be those with cancer but will also be for patients who suffer from other life-threatening diseases like end-stage heart, lung and kidney failure, Gan said.
Under the Agency for Integrated Care’s Holistic Care for Medically Advanced Patients Programme, patients with end-organ failure will receive structured home palliative care to meet the diverse medical, nursing and psychosocial needs of the patients, which reduces crisis admissions to the hospitals.
The programme targets to benefit over 3,000 end-organ failure patients over a five-year period at a cost of about S$12 million funded by MOH.
“As our population ages and healthcare needs change in tandem, we need to continually engage our healthcare professionals and reach out to the larger community to promote a wider understanding of end-of-life care and explore ways to serve patients better,” Gan said.
Apart from extending the scope of palliative care in Singapore, Gan also highlighted that “adequate caregiver support is critical in supporting the patient to continue staying in the community”.
Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore, Dr Ramaswamy Akhileswaran, chairman of the Singapore Hospice Council (SHC), who organised the conference, elaborated that the council reached out to more than 500 caregivers last year and trained them almost every week.
The SHC hopes to standardise caregiver trainings so that everyone will get the same training no matter who trains them, ensuring that techniques used in helping patients will be uniform throughout.
Training will not only be on techniques like how to carry a patient from the bed to the wheelchair but will also extend to teaching people how to cope emotionally when a patient is about to pass on or has already passed on.
In January 2012, MOH accepted the recommendations made in the National Strategy report on palliative care to improve the state of palliative care in Singapore. Steps have been outlined to put the recommendations to action and improve the systems currently in place but nothing has been fully implemented yet.
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