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Distinguished guests

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

Fellow healthcare professionals and community care partners

      Good morning. Thank you for joining us for the second Compassionate Care Conference. I would like to thank all of you for coming together and joining us today. It is a pleasure to see familiar faces today at the conference and be joined by so many people who are involved in the provision and support for our clients and patients in the community.

2    The theme of today’s conference is “Healer, Heal Thyself: Rising to the Challenges of Compassionate Care”. It reflects our collective commitment to shape the landscape of healthcare through compassion and understanding. The focus on Compassionate Care as the theme for the conference this year marks a shift in focus for the conference, as the inaugural conference last year had focused on end-of-life care decisions and grief management. This year, the conference seeks to promote compassionate at the heart of the care that we all provide as caregivers and that this emphasis on compassionate care transcends all healthcare settings. We, as healthcare providers, believe strongly that having compassion is essential in ensuring our care meets our patients’ healthcare needs and improves their quality of life holistically. Compassionate care promotes trust and disclosure between patients and healthcare teams, leading to better patient outcomes and experience. Beyond the end of life, compassionate care allows patients to receive care that is aligned with their values and preferences, across various stages of treatment and care.

3    As our population rapidly ages and has increasing healthcare needs, we expect more seniors to be frail and have complex medical conditions. More will require specialist led team-based care in our hospitals and require longer hospital stays. Our healthcare professionals must adapt to these new demands, similar to how they had battled the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meeting these increasing demands is emotionally and physically exhausting. Over time, many healthcare professionals become at risk of burnout; they struggle to maintain their health and mental well-being.

4    It is thus crucial to build a culture of support and empathy within our healthcare teams in our healthcare landscape. This is vital to safeguard our healthcare workers’ welfare. It ensures that our healthcare teams remain resilient despite managing the increasing demands on their services. We can do so in three key ways.

5    First, by integrating self-care practices and cultivating work environments which prioritise upholding the mental health of our healthcare professionals. Our teams should feel empowered to talk about their mental health without worrying about discrimination or stigmatisation. They should be encouraged to share their challenges, concerns and successes openly. We want to embrace them, join them in celebrating their successes, or walk with them to support them when they need that support.

6    Second, we must protect our healthcare workers from abuse. In a survey conducted in 2023, we found that nearly one in three healthcare workers had encountered or personally experienced abuse on a weekly basis while at work.Healthcare workers often empathise with their patients, who may feel vulnerable and frustrated because of their poor health. While this is laudable, displaying much empathy may blunt the ability of our healthcare staff to recognise abuse and harassment. To address these issues, the Tripartite Workgroup for the Prevention of Abuse and Harassment against Healthcare Workers launched its Tripartite Framework in December 2023. The framework sets out a common definition of abuse and harassment. It incorporates standardised protocols to respond to incidents of abuse in the healthcare setting, whether from patients, their families or visitors. We hope that with increased awareness of abuse and harassment, as well as a clear framework to manage abuse and harassment, healthcare workers will feel better supported to call out and stand up against abuse and harassment. This will protect their wellbeing for the long run.

7    Thirdly, organisations should continue working toward minimising the challenges faced by their healthcare staff in the course of their work. For example, they may identify ways to innovate so as to reduce the administrative burden and increase job autonomy. All these will benefit our healthcare workers and amplify their ability to do what they do best – supporting patients and delivering exceptional care.

8    Beyond the healthcare setting, the same considerations must apply to those who provide care at home. Like healthcare workers, caregivers at home are susceptible to caregiver burnout due to the emotional and physical demands of caregiving for loved ones. They may feel trapped at home, unable to call for help or not feel qualified to look after their loved ones. Caregivers too need to be physically and emotionally supported, so that they can continue to provide quality care for their loved ones. It is with this in mind that the Ministry of Health has enhanced respite care provision and supported more caregiver training. We are further considering how to improve workplace support for caregivers.

9    Healthcare organisations like St Luke’s Hospital play a key role in not just implementing, but also raising awareness of the need to establish a compassionate healthcare community. I am heartened to learn about the wellness initiatives undertaken by the Health and Wellness Committee (or Health Club) at St Luke’s Hospital, which regularly engages staff with activities, workshops and classes, to cater for their physical, psychosocial and emotional wellbeing. Other good examples of the healthcare sector’s efforts to provide support include Singapore Hospice Council’s library of e-resources for caregivers, which provide practical tips and knowledge to equip and support caregivers in their journey.

10    I call on all of you to inspire your teams, leaders and organisations to do the same – to start from looking at current practices and work towards building an even more compassionate healthcare environment.

11    I look forward to the insightful sharing from today’s speakers, and wish you all a fruitful learning and discussion. Thank you.

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