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Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment & Ministry of Manpower, and Adviser to Tampines Central


Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment & Ministry of Transport, and Adviser to Tampines North


Mr Cheng Wai Keung, Chairman, SingHealth


Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth


Dr David Ng, CEO, SingHealth Polyclinics


Ladies and gentlemen


1.             It is my pleasure to be here with you today to officially open Tampines North Polyclinic, which I believe is the 10th polyclinic run by SingHealth Polyclinics.


2.             In recent times, we have been coinciding the official opening of polyclinics on its first day of operation. I think this is a more meaningful practice because the commencement of a polyclinic’s operation is highly anticipated and very welcomed by residents, and we should mark the day with the official opening of the polyclinic.


3.             Like all new developments, there will be teething issues to be resolved. Hence, notwithstanding this official opening, I seek the understanding of all residents, of Tampines especially, as the polyclinic team smoothens its operation in the coming days and weeks.


4.             Many people, especially the staff of SingHealth, SingHealth Polyclinics and MOH Holdings, have worked very hard to make this new polyclinic a reality. This is in addition to various other tasks they have to juggle, including ramping up Healthier SG enrolment. Please join me to thank all the people who have worked hard for this project.


A Community Healthcare Facility


5.             Tampines North Polyclinic will be an important healthcare facility in Tampines New Town. It will provide holistic care for the whole family, whether it is a baby needing vaccination, a school-going kid who has caught the flu, parents coming in for their regular health check-ups, or grandparents requiring help from pharmacists to manage their medications, etc.


6.             The impact of the Polyclinic goes beyond its physical premises. It will partner community groups and stakeholders to promote healthier living in Tampines. After all, it is our everyday choices, from our diet to sleep patterns to daily activities, that determine our health in the long term. Our living environment is crucial in shaping our everyday choices, and our polyclinics will play a part to help all our residents achieve better health. This is the essence and objective of Healthier SG.


7.             Even before the launch of Healthier SG, SingHealth has already been working with the community here to implement the Health Up! Programme. Health Up! encourages individuals with chronic conditions to exercise safely and regularly, to improve their health outcomes. It also offers wellness programmes for those without chronic conditions to continue to stay healthy. The programme started in Tampines, and today, there are over 1,000 participants. With Healthier SG, and all the work that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is doing, we hope to see the continued growth of the Health Up! Programme from 1,000 to 10,000, or 100,000, which will then cover the whole of Tampines.


Expanding Primary Care Capacity


8.             Post COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for healthcare has risen, not just in Singapore but across all countries. The rise in demand is not driven by COVID-19 infections. In fact, only a very small fraction of our patients today in hospitals or polyclinics have COVID-19. Even if they do have COVID-19, it is incidental because we tested them. But they are inflicted instead by a range of diseases, and especially chronic illnesses that were probably not well managed during the pandemic. We talk about long COVID. In fact, it is keenly felt by the healthcare system because we continue to have to manage a very high patient load even after the pandemic crisis is over. As a result, residents are finding that queues and waiting times are longer, and it is harder to make appointments, including at polyclinics.


9.             To address this, we are catching up on the expansion of our primary care capacity, which was delayed due to COVID-19. With the opening of Tampines North Polyclinic, we now have 24 polyclinics islandwide. Later this year, in November, we will be opening Sembawang Polyclinic. This will be followed by the new Khatib Polyclinic and then the redeveloped Pasir Ris Polyclinic in 2024.


10.          From 2025 to 2030, more polyclinics will come into operation, in Bidadari, Bishan, Kaki Bukit, Serangoon, Taman Jurong and Tengah. When all these are open, it will bring the number of polyclinics in Singapore to 32.


Leveraging Technology


11.          Another significant initiative to meet the rising demand for healthcare is to leverage telemedicine, especially video consultations. This is suitable for a range of primary care delivery, typically non-urgent cases, such as attending to patients with common cough and cold, some of them want a medical certificate, or follow-up consultations with patients with chronic conditions.


12.          Many of us used telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have gotten used to it. In fact, many now find telemedicine a lot more convenient than face-to-face consultations with doctors. Seniors who are less mobile can also save a trip to the polyclinic, provided all these are simple conditions that we can use telemedicine to tend to them.


13.          I am happy to see SingHealth making a significant push in telehealth. They have started a small-scale pilot service offering teleconsultations for patients with acute conditions. Some of their polyclinics offer teleconsultations for wound care, direct observed therapy for tuberculosis patients, and allied health services. Tampines North Polyclinic will start by offering video consultations for physiotherapy.


14.          To bolster their telehealth services, SingHealth will be setting up a centralised telehealth hub. It will be hosted at Eunos Polyclinic. The hub will bring together clinical and administrative staff involved in the delivery of telehealth in one location. There will be technical support staff, and customer service officers to support patient administrative services, such as scheduling for the next telehealth appointment. Unlike normal primary care services where we have to distribute them because we need the services to be close to the patients; with telehealth services, we can centralise and deliver them remotely. The hub will also be equipped with soundproof pods. Therefore, it will be a more conducive facility for telehealth, and will be able to reap efficiencies of scale.


Emphasis on Primary Care


15.          Polyclinics are a key pillar in our primary care infrastructure. The other key pillar is our network of General Practitioners (GPs) in private clinics. The great majority of GPs are part of Primary Care Networks that work with our public healthcare clusters and are participating in Healthier SG. Together, polyclinics and GPs form the national network of family physicians that will serve as the first line of defence against sickness, and more importantly, help us build better health. Staying healthy is largely a personal responsibility, but under Healthier SG, our family physicians will guide and support us in building better health.


16.          One good starting point is to take less sodium and sugar, and ask for “siew dai” (less sugar). When you go to the hawker centre, you can ask them not to be so heavy-handed on the soy sauce, balachan (shrimp paste) and salt. We are simply consuming too much sodium. I do believe, with my little cooking experience, that sometimes the less salt you use, the more you taste. A little bit of salt enhances the taste of food, but when too much salt is used, we are just spoiling our tongue. Most of us have already “spoilt” our tongues, and we equate saltiness with tastiness. So let us wind that back.


17.          Thank you once again to everyone who made this polyclinic possible. To Tampines residents, congratulations for getting this first-class primary care facility. I wish you good health! Thank you very much.

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