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Mr Tan Tee How, Chairman, National Healthcare Group

Professor Phillip Choo, Group Chief Executive Officer, National Healthcare Group

Professor Eugene Fidelis Soh, Chief Executive Officer, Tan Tock Seng Hospital

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. I am happy to join you today for the official opening of the Clinic for Advanced Rehabilitation Therapeutics (CART) by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). Today we are also commemorating CART’s 10th anniversary. I am glad to see that from version 1.0, we are now at version 2.0, and I hope with many more versions to come.

2. TTSH has been a pioneer in the development of rehabilitation medicine in Singapore. Over the years, the hospital has played a key role in raising the quality of life and restoring the functional ability of patients suffering from strokes, spinal cord conditions, traumatic brain and limb injuries, as well as amputations.

3. With the advancement of medical technology and digitalisation, TTSH established CART 10 years ago to further its work in this area. The first CART was a consolidation of various outpatient rehab services, including TTSH’s offsite outpatient rehab clinic and also, the gym. The current CART is now a few times larger than the original, and taking into account the advancements in technology in this area, its range of services has also expanded to rehabilitate more types of patients. With this, not only can more patients can be seen, there will also be quicker access to the outpatient rehab services. I want to highlight three key features that I think make CART 2.0 vastly improved from 1.0.

4. The first is the use of technology. CART combines conventional medical and rehab approaches with specialised rehab technologies such as robotics and virtual reality. The technologies improve patients’ diagnosis and monitoring, and enable patients to gradually gain control of their movement and strengths through home therapy and without having to visit a clinic. 10 years ago, we did not have such advanced technology yet, which can be put to very good use to help people recover.

5. One example is the H-MAN, a portable arm rehabilitation robot that can be installed at home. It helps patients rebuild their hand and arm strength while playing games using a joystick. Given the interactive and gamification nature of these technologies, patients who used to find the exercises repetitive and monotonous, will now become more engaged and interested.

6. CART will continue to work closely with industry and the academia partners on rehab innovations. I hope to see more of such projects, including projects that are near-market commercialisation that can undergo trials in CART before being contextualised to our local setting, and then adopted, and scaled-up, and thereafter involve patients.

7. The second feature is manpower and talent. Technology needs to go hand in hand with the hard work of the well-trained and committed rehab care professionals. They are a multi-disciplinary team including Allied Health Professionals, nurses and doctors who are trained in rehab medicine.

8. Our healthcare manpower needs are growing across the entire healthcare ecosystem, and that includes the rehab services. We will continue to work with our Institutes of Higher Learning and training partners to provide a range of training and development opportunities, not only for fresh school leavers but also mid-career individuals keen to enter into and contribute to the sector. In an area like rehab services, there are a lot of opportunities for mid-career switches who can help patients in need of recovering their bodily functions and strengths.

9. The third feature is community partnership. With a rapidly ageing population and higher prevalence of chronic diseases, demand for rehab services will grow. Rehab must be made accessible to a wider range of patients, especially the elderly who can become frail after acute illnesses. Through community partnership, we can shift the care models to make rehab more accessible to patients. It is critically important that this is not just available in hospitals. It needs to be available in the community. As the population gets older, our seniors need to know that downstairs, in the precinct, near the hawker centre, near the MRT station, is where they can go for rehab services. So we need to rethink the way we deploy resources at present on the ground. That relates back to the use of technology in the community, so that it is not such a huge hurdle that people feel technology is only found in hospitals, or only found in universities. Rehab manpower and expertise must be able to be found everywhere, so that even the laymen could be trained to help out with our patients.

10. To facilitate the flow of patients through their care continuum, CART is partnering Stroke Support Station (S3) – it is a community organisation – to direct or refer discharged stroke patients for continued active rehab or wellness activities. Through S3, patients with stable conditions who do not require surgery or complex interventions can get access to rehab services in the community or at their homes. Patients will have access to advanced assistive technologies, and robotic-aided rehab facilities. CART and S3 will also be exploring tele-collaboration and tele-consultation services. I think that there is great promise for this. Post-COVID, people now know telemedicine can work. Before that, it is all quite scary, quite alien. But after COVID-19, where we all have to recover from home, and then doctors can give us the attention via Zoom, telemedicine – it has shown that medicine can be delivered to our homes as well. So there are lots of promises and opportunities we can work on.

11. I thank TTSH‘s dedication and commitment and also, all your partners, for all your help for all these years to take care of our patients and integrate them back into the community. I think, just now, Dr Loh Yong Joo gave a tagline that I thought it is very useful – that at CART, patients are always at the heart. Congratulations on the opening of CART. Thank you.

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