Those with chronic illness can sign up earlier for Healthier SG programme
27 Feb 2023
The Straits Times
SINGAPORE – Patients with chronic illnesses will get to enrol earlier in the Healthier SG programme, which allows Singapore residents to choose a dedicated general practitioner to manage their health.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Saturday said the national programme, announced last year, will hold a pre-enrolment exercise from May for those aged 40 years and older who have chronic illnesses.
Healthier SG is slated to kick off in July, starting with those who are at least 60.
To qualify for early enrolment, patients must have been seeing the same GP regularly for the management of their chronic illness, and their GP’s clinic must have signed up to be in the programme, added Mr Ong.
The move to have people see a dedicated family physician comes as Singapore shifts to a healthcare model based on prevention, instead of reactively caring for those who are already sick.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a ministerial visit to Pasir Ris Central, Mr Ong said doctors have raised concerns that their patients may be crowded out if response to Healthier SG is too overwhelming.
Under the programme, people will enrol with a primary care doctor who will holistically manage their health.
Those who sign up will have a free consultation on their first visit, during which the doctor will work out a health plan that can include diet adjustments, an exercise regimen and regular health screenings.
Mr Ong said the pre-enrolment exercise in May will ensure that people with chronic illnesses can register first and continue to see their GP, noting that 40 years is the age when most chronic illnesses start to develop.
He added that the benefits of the programme will kick in in July.
In the next two years, those in the 40-59 age group will also be able to sign up for the programme.
Health experts and analysts have said that this model of healthcare will hopefully result in better health and keep people out of hospitals, which are expected to come under increased strain as the population ages.
Mr Ong, responding to a question on whether there is a hospital bed crunch because of an uptick in Covid-19 cases in the past weeks, said it was not Covid-19 that caused the hospital workload to shoot up, but rather other viral, respiratory and chronic illnesses.
While some people had posted on social media about waiting for 20 hours for a hospital bed, this was more the exception than the norm, he said.
He said those who go to the accident and emergency department of hospitals will be seen by doctors or nurses on arrival. If their cases are deemed urgent, they will be admitted right away.
For non-urgent cases, the wait for a bed in most hospitals is four to five hours, though it can go up to even 20 hours in the busiest hospitals, he acknowledged.
Mr Ong added that the heavier workload at hospitals is “a trend we need to tackle”, noting that it is compounded by society ageing.
This underscores the importance of keeping Singaporeans healthy and active, he said.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Desmond Tan, who is the MP for the Pasir Ris Central division of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said some grassroots activities in his constituency have been geared towards getting seniors to embrace active ageing.
Besides holding health screenings and sports activities at the sports centre there, there are also food distribution and free haircut drives to get seniors out of the home so that they can forge friendships with neighbours and keep active.
“I think it’s also a platform to bond together,” he told reporters.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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