Skip to content


Dr Peng Chung Mien, Chairman of St. Luke’s Hospital

A/P Tan Boon Yeow, CEO, St. Luke’s Hospital

Ladies and gentlemen

       Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to give the opening address at the inaugural palliative care symposium organised by St. Luke’s Hospital (SLH). 

2.     Today’s theme of “Wellness to Wholeness – Compassionate care for individuals, teams and organisations” reflects the essence of good medical practice. This is the founding principle of palliative care. Compassionate care is a virtuous response seeking to address the suffering and needs of a person through relational understanding and action1. In the end-of-life context, compassionate care is exemplified by healthcare workers identifying issues important to their patients and striving to better understand their concerns and aspirations concerning their terminal illness. In delivering compassionate care, healthcare workers seek to address issues important to their patients, work toward providing patients a good quality of life with loved ones for their remaining time, and help patients achieve a good death free from pain and suffering. 

3.     Compassionate care starts with serious illness conversations initiated by the primary team early in the care journey, enabling prompt palliative care interventions tailored to patient’s needs. To facilitate meaningful conversations, we need to empower and equip healthcare professionals so as to grow palliative care capabilities across the wider healthcare sector. We also need to raise community awareness and receptivity towards end-of-life issues. Everyone here plays a crucial role, including organisations such as St Luke’s Hospital and Singapore Hospice Council, who have played leading roles in promoting the importance of palliative care via professional collaborations and media campaigns. 

4.     Palliative care professionals are aware that beyond physical needs, psychosocial and spiritual aspects also need to be assessed and managed. For example, the SLH pastoral care service is essential in addressing the spiritual needs of patients, caregivers, and staff. Other examples of local community programmes, such as Montfort Care’s “Grief Matters”, also help individuals process and cope with their grief, and seek to increase grief literacy.

5.     Why is compassionate care important? Studies have demonstrated patients and caregivers who reported good relationships and trust with the clinical team were more likely to cope better emotionally and experience an improved quality of life. 

6.     Among healthcare professionals, high levels of intentional compassionate practice among colleagues lead to teams being more fulfilled and satisfied in their work, with increased motivation to develop their skills and expertise. This results in personnel with higher capabilities who are better able to manage complex end-of-life care issues, communicate skillfully, and cope more effectively.

7.     Organisations that incorporate compassionate care into their practice were more likely to report two benefits: first, a reduction in healthcare provider burnout, leading to increased palliative care capacity and higher staff morale. Second, working in a compassionate environment for motivated and skilled individuals leads to optimal conditions and opportunities for innovation, benefiting patients, staff and the organisation.

8.     Finally, as healthcare workers, our own community should take the lead in creating compassionate workplaces responsive to staff needs and emotions. As care providers, we value the importance of establishing close relationships with patients and their caregivers. Staff are also expected to remain professional, even in difficult situations and in the face of grief on a daily basis. This is not easy and it is emotionally sapping. Establishing a support framework for our healthcare professionals involved in end-of-life care is important. 

9.     Creating a compassionate workplace is a shared responsibility: At the top, leaders must establish a strong caring culture in their organisation and define the values that drive compassionate practices at the bedside. At the team level, healthcare team members can take the lead to show compassion in their decisions and actions as role models to influence others. I am heartened many of our partners have implemented initiatives including art therapy and counselling to care for staff mental well-being. I encourage partners present to continue investing in such measures, which benefit both staff and patients. 

10.     We have an exciting line-up of international speakers participating in the symposium today. I am sure that they will be able to inspire and motivate you to provide compassionate care for your patients and clients. I wish you a fruitful day of learning and discussion. Thank you.

1 Sinclair S, McClement S, Raffin Bouchal S, Hack TF, Hagen NA, McConnell S, Chochinov HM. Compassion in health care: an empirical model. J Pain Symptom Manage 2016;51:193-203.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *