1. Let me speak briefly on COVID-19. I am very happy that the worst is over. We have a slight spike now because there are some sub-variants – BA2.75, BA2.10 – that are circulating. They are detected in many parts of the world, but they have now found their way here, and we are getting some re-infections. So that is pushing up the numbers a bit.
2. But this is part and parcel of living with an endemic disease. We take our precautions, but try to live life normally. The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) will be putting out our latest recommendations on vaccination very shortly, so do watch out for it as it is important.
3. I want to thank the dental community for their strong support throughout the pandemic. It has not been easy, and this is one industry that your patients cannot wear masks, so there is always a risk of infection but you carried on. Thank you very much.
4. To the exhibitors, it has been tough. Everyone has gone through a very tough time, but I think Singapore is determined that we are a hub of Asia, we are a hub of the world in trade and investment, and in innovation, in whatever is new and innovative, and we want it to flow to Singapore. So, it is great that once we have an opportunity, we restart our MICE industry. Thank you very much for your support.
5. On my second topic, which is preventive care, we recently released the Healthier SG White Paper. There is some feedback from the dental community to say that this plan deals a lot with the General Practitioners (GPs) and not dentists. Preventive care is absolutely important, including for oral and dental care. But I must say that actually for dental care, you are ahead on physical care, which is why you are not featured strongly in Healthier SG. For whatever reasons, preventive care for dental health, as well as health seeking habits, have been much stronger.
6. For many of us, we still remember the dread of coming in to a school dentist during primary school. The school dentist will check your dental health, but that is a really good practice. I think because of that, for our young children have one of the best dental and oral health in the world. As you grow up, many more people living in Singapore have the habit of visiting a dentist from time to time, just to check out our dental health and clean our teeth, whereas we do not do that with our GPs to do our health screening.
7. For that reason, you had Healthier SG, before we had Healthier SG, which explains why we are taking a bit of time to look at dental health. Do what is most urgent first, which are the chronic illness – hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes – we will tackle those first.
8. Specific to GPs and maybe dentists, there are some concerns when you read the White Paper. We had an extensive debate, and the information was shared there. If you bother to binge-watch two days of parliamentary debate, you may get your answers. But to give you the short assurance. Some GPs are concerned: what is this capitation thing about; would I be affected?
9. Be assured, your existing business is not affected for all GPs. This so-called capitation is a big word. All it means is an additional fee the government will pay you, to help us get preventive care. And it is called capitation because we pay a base fee per patient regardless of their conditions.
10. If you can get them to observe their health screening schedule, complete their health screening, you get the additional fee. And this is just to cover the fee and the service that you are providing. So not to worry. The main worry I have for GPs is that you become too crowded. We went through this during COVID-19, when clinics became crowded and the government paid them a fee for every COVID-19 patient they saw. So we will manage the volume and the enrolment numbers.
11. The other concern, which I think is shared by dentists as well, is the IT system, and that now you have to link up to the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) system. We strongly encourage you to do this. I know it is not easy, especially for practitioners who are still using pen and paper, and we will try to come up with easier solutions and provide IT grants to help you transit.
12. But I hope to seek everyone’s understanding. It is important that we all come on to the same national system, because a patient can have a very good relationship with their doctor, and all the information is captured in the steel cabinet of the doctor. But one day, if the patient needs to see another doctor, say at the A&E department, and if the other system has zero information, it does not serve the patient well. It is much better to ingest important information into the national system. I think we can deliver much better integrated and holistic care for our patients. It is a one time, albeit painful effort, but it is worth the investment to bring our healthcare system to a new level.
13. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to speak with you. All the best, and stay healthy.