Mr Lim Boon Heng, Patron, HCA Hospice Limited
Dr Gerard Ee, Chairman, Agency for Integrated Care
Dr Seet Ai Mee, former President, HCA Hospice Limited
Dr Caroline Lim, President, HCA Hospice Limited
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you at the official opening of HCA Hospice Limited’s (HCA) third day hospice here at the Outram Community Hospital.
2. Since the 1980s, palliative care has made great progress and expanded into different settings – such as the inpatient, home, and day care settings – to cater to the needs of patients. Services are accessible to all, with the majority of patients paying affordable rates after subsidises.
3. HCA is one such valuable provider of palliative care. Every year, HCA serves more than 3,000 patients across its hospice services. It is the largest community palliative care provider in Singapore, offering comfort and care in the home and day care settings to its clients at no charge. It has continued to thrive in these extraordinary times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to take this opportunity to thank HCA’s patron, Mr Lim Boon Heng, for his unwavering support to HCA throughout the years.
4. Indeed, despite the ongoing pandemic, I am heartened to see HCA continuing to achieve excellence and show your utmost care and concern for the community. HCA staff achieved the Healthcare Humanity Awards and Community Care Excellence Awards in 2020. You demonstrated resilience and resourcefulness during the pandemic, with a dedicated COVID-19 taskforce, a robust pandemic response plan and a 24/7 COVID-At-Risk clinical team.
5. I must also thank HCA for your adaptability and understanding. This official opening ceremony had to be rescheduled from January earlier this year to today due to the tightening of restrictions during the Omicron wave. I thank you for your understanding.
6. Today, we are here to witness the official opening ceremony of Oasis@Outram. Established with a gift of $2.47 million by the Lien Foundation, Oasis@Outram will join the ranks of HCA Kang Le Day Hospice and HCA Day Hospice @ Serangoon, to be HCA’s third day hospice. These three centres offer more than 60% of day hospice capacity in Singapore, enabling patients to remain cared for in the community. Oasis@Outram will add capacity to this effort by serving up to 48 palliative patients at its maximum capacity.
7. Notably, Oasis@Outram is located in the new Outram Community Hospital, which also provides inpatient palliative services. This co-location enables both the HCA and Outram Community Hospital teams to forge closer partnerships and provide a more seamless continuum of care for palliative care patients transiting from the hospital to home. It also provides a state-of-the-art sanctuary for its patients and respite for their loved ones, where their needs and interests are met individually.
8. Instead of a pre-decided programme, patients in Oasis@Outram can choose from a range of activities, such as art and craft sessions, or take part in singing and music therapy. HCA also displays creativity in caring for its patients. Last Christmas, HCA transformed Oasis@Outram into a “Christmas Wonderland”. It featured a “gifts auction”, dancing, and even served cocktails and mocktails to their patients. Such activities bring some much-needed joy to patients.
9. Besides serving seniors, Oasis@Outram uniquely serves young patients with life-limiting conditions from the Star PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) programme. It provides dedicated facilities and safe spaces for our young patients and their caregivers. There is even a cozy play corner and a mechanical hoist to carry the children, relieving their caregivers from the physical strain.
10. Knowing that their loved ones are well taken care of is especially critical since the impact of life-limiting illnesses on palliative care patients often weighs heavily on their caregivers, who grapple with grief and caregiving responsibilities. Oasis@Outram also provides caregiver respite. Caregivers are invited to join in the activities, use the facilities, or even help as a volunteer. This allows them to spend quality time with their loved ones.
11. Recently, at the Work Plan Seminar for the community care sector, I spoke about the importance of palliative care. It is an area where we will try to push and bring forward to the top of our agenda in the Ministry of Health. A few things have become very important, other than COVID-19. COVID-19 will always occupy us in the present and coming months. But if we look far enough, five to 10 years on, Healthier SG is important to keep people of working age healthy. To complement it, we need a big push on palliative care.
12. We do not have to further explain why it is needed. Most people at an advanced age towards that phase of their lives prefer to go comfortably and surrounded by loved ones. That is the wish of most people, but too few are fulfilling their wish. We need to recognise that we want palliative care to be more accepted. I believe it is more accepted today. We started palliative day hospice in 1993 when the first centre was set up, and the second centre in 1995. We have five centres now – the remaining three centres were only set up in the last three years. This shows that people are responding to it, and the community care sector is also responding to this demand.
13. We must recognise two things. First, to make palliative more receptive and available to people, it is not just about hospitals but also about the community, such as having facilities which provide day care services. Second, it is not just about the patient, but also about their caregivers who sometimes suffer in a different way but just as much as the patient. We need such facilities and community support to provide them assurance, care and comfort. Step by step, we will make more progress.
14. In closing, I would like to thank all the donors, volunteers, staff, and supporters of HCA, for bringing Oasis@Outram to fruition. Improving end-of-life care is one of MOH’s priorities over the next few years. We aim to strengthen end-of-life care, to help people maintain quality of life even in their final days, and leave well. This will help our loved ones fulfil their last wishes.
15. To do so, we need to raise awareness of end-of-life care and pre-planning, make more timely referrals to palliative care, smoothen hospital discharges, and improve caregiver support. Day hospices, like Oasis@Outram, play an essential role in this effort. It is our vision that all individuals will be able to access and receive appropriate quality end-of-life care, which allows them to spend their last days in a comforting environment of their choice, surrounded by their loved ones.
16. I am happy to declare Oasis@Outram officially open.