Dr Gerard Ee, Chairman, Agency for Integrated Care (AIC)
Partners from the Community Care sector
Friends and colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning. I am pleased to be here today with all of you to celebrate Community Care Day 2020.
2. The community care sector plays a key role in supporting Singaporeans to age well. Community Care Day is a day for us to recognise the hard work of our community care workers and celebrate the efforts to help our seniors age well in the community. 2020 has been an unprecedented and challenging year for all of us, and I am proud to say that the community care sector has remained committed, dedicated and resilient. I thank everyone for your personal sacrifices, and for your sustained contributions in caring for Singaporeans.
Key Roles of the Community Care Sector
3. Throughout this challenging period, the sector has worked in close partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), responding swiftly to changing requirements and engaging us continuously on refining what needed to be done. All of you continued to deliver care to our seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic while going the extra mile to implement measures to safeguard their health. Nursing home leaders rallied their staff to move to designated accommodation so that they could maintain split zones to keep our vulnerable seniors safe. When nursing homes that were affected by COVID-19 cases had manpower shortfalls, the sector responded to our call by contributing experienced staff to help keep operations going.
4. Over the past months, community care staff have demonstrated great dedication. They conducted and underwent swabs to pre-emptively pick up any infections. On top of their significant load, they also took on the additional work of running activities to engage the seniors when volunteers were not allowed. Some of our eldercare centre operators conducted ‘home-based learning’ for their clients, such as exercise sessions and memory exercises using video-conferencing platforms, during the Circuit Breaker period when centres had to close. Even though there was a need for physical safe distancing, all of you were always close by in providing emotional and socio-emotional support to our seniors. This spirit of adaptability, innovation and self-help within the community care sector is truly commendable. Let us rally together and support each other to further this good work in the days ahead.
5. The COVID-19 situation has many useful lessons on how to better safeguard the health and wellbeing of our seniors even as we improve care delivery. Community care facilities have stepped up infection control and prevention practices, as well as safe distancing measures and split-zone arrangements, all to keep our seniors safe. Even as we need to stay vigilant, over the coming months, we will study further how to incorporate these learning points into our future plans to prepare for future crises and events.
Recognition for Community Care Sector
6. Apart from good plans and protocols, heartware (as in H-E-A-R-T) is also critical in enabling the sector to continue delivering excellent care to our seniors. Last year, AIC introduced the Community Care Fund, for providers to appreciate the hard work and dedication of their staff. AIC continues to make the Fund available to the sector this year and I hope more of you will use this opportunity to express thanks to your staff.
7. AIC has also introduced three other initiatives with in-kind support with donations from corporate organisations and individuals. First, the #StrongerThanBefore initiative has supported 11 community care providers in strengthening operational capabilities during this period, for example in the areas of increased cleaning and disinfection of their premises. Next, the #StrongerTogether initiative supports providers in appreciating community care workers for their tireless contributions. Over 80 community care providers have tapped on the initiative to purchase welfare packs or organise activities for their staff. Lastly, the #ReadyTogether initiative enables providers to maintain service continuity amid the pandemic, including digital solutions like video consultation equipment. We hope to continue supporting our partners as they transform the way they care for and support our seniors. Centres and home care providers can approach AIC to apply for support.
8. In addition, AIC’s Thank You Campaign launched in September allowed the public to show their appreciation by penning Thank You letters to community care staff. To date, we have received over 700 letters on the campaign website at www.thankyouproject.sg. The encouraging response to the campaign is testimony to the importance of the work you do, and how the society at large can come together to encourage and support the work of the community care sector.
Community Care Excellence Awards and Friends of Community Care
9. Today we also celebrate and recognise our staff for their excellent care through the Community Care Excellence Awards. I am delighted to hear that this year there were over 500 nominations from 36 community care partners for the Community Care Excellence Awards. This is testament to our sector’s spirit of continuously seeking improvements in clinical quality, client experience and productivity.
10. One of the winners of the Community Care Excellence Awards is Mdm Tiong Hoong Yin, a senior rehabilitation care assistant at Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital (KWSH). In her 16 years at KWSH, Mdm Tiong has made significant contributions to quality care and service improvement initiatives. For example, when she found out that one of her clients had a keen interest in sewing patchwork, Mdm Tiong encouraged her to share more about her interest with others at the senior care centre. Mdm Tiong also provided fabrics for her to use. Eventually, other clients became interested, and a special interest group formed. We appreciate the many community care partners, like Mdm Tiong, who have gone beyond the call of duty to connect deeply with our seniors.
Introduction of Friends of Community Care
11. In addition to celebrating our staff, we also want to appreciate the many supporters and friends who have journeyed with the sector. AIC’s new Friends of Community Care Awards pay tribute to these partnerships. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and corporate organisations rallied behind the sector with monetary and in-kind support, which were used to put together the three support initiatives mentioned earlier. More than 20 sponsors generously contributed over $2 million in sponsorship and donated items worth over $3 million.
12. This year’s Friends of Community Care Awards feature a Special Mentions category to recognise the exemplary efforts of friends who stepped forward to help during COVID-19. This includes the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). CFS supported the sector right from the beginning of the pandemic, through pledging part of their Sayang Sayang Fund and securing monetary sponsorships for the sector. To date, CFS has contributed sponsorships of over $450,000 to the three support initiatives. CFS’ generosity also included a sponsorship of 340 units of the GOVTECH Self-Service Temperature Scanner to nursing homes, hospices and eldercare centres.
13. It is through such whole-of-society efforts that we can ensure that the good work of the sector continues to reach those who need the help.
14. The community care sector has remained resilient throughout this challenging year, and I am confident that it will emerge even stronger after this crisis. In making Singapore one of the best places to age in, the Government, community care sector, and society at large must each play a role, and together we can achieve the best care outcomes. I thank all of you again for your contributions, and I encourage more Friends of Community Care to join us in our journey in this pandemic and beyond.
15. I would like to wish everyone a happy Community Care Day and look forward to our continued partnership. Thank you.