Addenda to President's Address: MOH to keep S'pore well-resourced to treat Covid-19 patients, deal with sudden surges

SINGAPORE – As the pandemic rages on, Singapore will work to ensure it has the resources to treat coronavirus patients and deal with sudden surges in case numbers.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Tuesday (Aug 25) said his ministry will continue to maintain “adequate quarantine and community isolation capacity” in case of a surge.

It will also tap data and technology to improve the country’s ability to respond quickly to evolving situations and contain outbreaks, he added in the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) addendum to the President’s Address.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge for our healthcare system,” said Mr Gan.

“We are committed to continuing our fight against Covid-19, while also continuing to transform and strengthen our health systems in a sustainable way for the long term.”

Laying out Singapore’s approach to the coronavirus, Mr Gan warned that further waves of the disease are possible as long as a vaccine remains out of reach.

To that end, MOH will make sure Singapore has the resources to care for all Covid-19 patients and support all healthcare institutions involved in the fight.

Singapore will also work with its international partners to share information on cases and remains “actively involved” in developing vaccines and treatments for the virus, Mr Gan said.

Digitalisation projects to do with telehealth and remote working for staff will be accelerated, with MOH also working on plans to improve career development and welfare in the sector.

It will also press on with long-term plans to expand healthcare capacity, keep medical costs affordable, and help Singaporeans stay healthy.

The ministry has plans to make preventive healthcare more accessible and affordable, and extend more help to vulnerable groups such as seniors and young people at risk of mental health conditions.

The nationwide war against diabetes will also continue.

Eldercare services will gradually expand their scope to include active ageing programmes or befriending schemes for the lonely, while new healthcare facilities are also in the pipeline.

“While Covid-19 has pushed back the completion timelines for some of the upcoming new facilities, we will continue to expand our healthcare capacity, such as by building a new hospital in the east and new polyclinics across Singapore by 2030,” Mr Gan said.

Work is also ongoing on schemes to keep healthcare costs affordable.

For instance, benefits and premiums under the national health insurance scheme, MediShield Life, are under review to ensure that Singaporeans are adequately protected against large medical bills. Healthcare subsidy frameworks are also being reviewed, the Health Minister said.

“Although it has presented us with many challenges, Covid-19 has also strengthened our resolve to transform healthcare,”he added.

Apart from its digitalisation projects, the Health Ministry will also strengthen research and development and improve its data infrastructure.

These efforts are designed to improve the patient experience and provide more seamless care across the sector, as well as to increase operating efficiency.

“We will manage the rollout of these initiatives expeditiously and securely, whilst strengthening cybersecurity across MOH, its statutory boards, and the healthcare sector,” Mr Gan said.

Looking ahead, the ministry will also ramp up recruitment in the sector, even as it looks at how to improve career development and welfare for healthcare workers.

Mr Gan also expressed his gratitude to healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of the current crisis.

“We have been able to respond well and adapt quickly to Covid-19 because of our healthcare workers and partners who have led the charge against Covid-19,” he said.

“Their adaptability, resilience, and determination have led to innovations in caring for patients both within the existing healthcare institutions and in new settings such as the various isolation and recovery facilities.”

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