Mr Arthur Lang, Chairman, National Kidney Foundation
Mr Tim Oei, CEO, National Kidney Foundation
Mr Danny Teoh, Chairman, Keppel Corporation
Mr Loh Chin Hua, CEO, Keppel Corporation
Prof Chua Hong Choon, CEO, Yishun Health Campus
Mr Ho Tong Yen, CEO, Keppel Care Foundation
Thank you everyone. I want to first acknowledge all the difficulties and hardship that everyone went through during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite us easing measures, cases have been falling. So that is a force of nature. When it decides to go up, no restrictions can suppress it. When it wants to go down, no easing can bring it up. That is what we are dealing with. But that is good news. I am very glad that so far my prediction has been wrong, because I expected that once we ease up, cases will have an uptick. I am very happy to say that I was wrong, but we still have to watch the case numbers next week.
2. But through this process, everyone had to work really hard and adjust. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is an example. It has not been easy, you have a pandemic going on and yet you need to save lives every day, and work with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to come up with new protocols. Thankfully, patients were also very patient and cooperative. I think somewhere through the wave, the hospitals were under a lot of pressure, and you took back some patients even though they were COVID-positive and made special arrangements for them to go through dialysis. That has been very valuable to the hospitals, so thank you very much for doing this.
3. Keppel, not so much on the healthcare front, but the workers’ front. With all your dormitories, it has not been easy. But I think companies like yours managed to have your workers contained in your own dormitories, to ensure safety and still deliver projects without too much delay. Now that we have emerged from a big wave, workers are returning, and I hope that business operations will go back to normal. So thank you very much for being such a resilient company.
4. Of course, I save my biggest thanks to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and to all our hospitals. I have never described you as the frontline, because you are not. You are actually the last line of defence. When all else fails, such as vaccines, personal hygiene, safe management measures (SMMs), and our own body resistance, you end up in hospital. Hospitals are the ones who catch all the severe illnesses, with healthcare workers next to the patients to help them get back to normal lives. Every week I check with the CEOs. Things are gradually getting better. So that is extremely delightful to hear. Everyone deserves a big round of applause.
5. On the issue of kidney failure, we need to go upstream. After the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, we need to tackle a far more challenging pandemic – which is longer-term chronic illness, and diabetes is a major one. About 5.7 new patients are diagnosed with kidney failure daily. By the time you have to go for dialysis and build real estate and centres, it is too late. We really need to go upstream.
6. Two nights ago, I had my first barbeque in three years, with some of the volunteers in my constituency. I saw them drinking sweetened soft drinks, and I asked them “Why do you drink this? It has seven teaspoons of sugar in it”. These are young, healthy people, not realising the kind of cases we see in the dialysis centres. I had an uncle with diabetes, in his last days, he was still eating normally. It is very hard to change such habits. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that putting in all the effort to change one mind will not move the needle at all and relieve our burden.
7. We need to think of a larger strategy, and in my mind, it must be to mobilise all our General Practitioners (GPs). Make them family physicians trusted by families and in their private settings, when they see a GP, the GP can advise them on their readings, and what they need to do for their family, children and parents. In that circumstance, after you see a GP and the family physician numerous times, there may be enough trust for someone to change their minds. And if you follow through a GP’s care plan, the Government can give you some nudges.
8. So when we talk about Healthier SG, it is in this context. Nothing heroic, nothing about advanced medical technology. It is going back to good old healthcare, relying on the GP and the trust with the families and individual patients. So in a nutshell, we need to mobilise 2,000 GPs plus our primary care providers to be part of preventive care. Then, sometime in the middle of next year, we will go out to all residents 40 years and above, to register and enrol yourself in the national Healthier SG programme. This means you commit to see one GP, maybe once a year, could be telemedicine or physical, and the GP will prescribe you the appropriate vaccination and healthcare screenings, and advise you on what to do. Many of the advice will be based on lifestyle, diet, for example, exercise and cessation of smoking. Some of these will require hospitals to support them, while others require community support, not so much acute care support. That means brisk-walking, exercise and activities that GPs will be referring them to. And if residents follow through, we will need to think of positive nudges that we can give them. Healthcare insurance premiums may come down. We now have a Healthy 365 app, where you clock certain number of steps and get vouchers. We can think about widening this.
9. In a nutshell, it is a whole movement to move this along. We have not come up with the detailed plan. We intend to do so in the fourth quarter of this year, in the form of a White Paper that I will bring up to Parliament for a detailed discussion. In the meantime, we are consulting many people. Just last week, we had a virtual townhall with 1,000 GPs. They provided very good guidelines on the things to watch out for, in order for this to work out in the GP sector. This is a major piece of work. After COVID, this is the most important national healthcare agenda for us.
10. Back to this centre, thank you everyone for putting in the effort to set up this integrated centre. In the future, we should think of how to integrate dialysis centres with other private care settings. It will make a lot more sense. So to be located in a community hospital, I hope it is a start. I thank Keppel Care Foundation for all your help, donation and support. Do continue to always support healthcare.
11. Last but not least, have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay healthy. Thank you.