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Mr Say Kwee Neng, CEO, Tsao Foundation, 

Partners and friends, 

  I am happy to be here today at Tsao Foundation’s Learning Festival. I extend my deepest and warmest congratulations to the Tsao Foundation on its 30th year anniversary. Here’s wishing you a happy anniversary.

2. Since this is your 30th anniversary, it is only appropriate for me to recognise your 30 years of contribution. Tsao Foundation has been in the eldercare sector for 30 years, doing a lot for our seniors. It was established in 1993 by Mrs Tsao Ng Yu Shun at the age of 87. We can imagine and appreciate her passion and empathy for seniors when she embarked on this endeavour. Tsao Foundation was set up to empower seniors, promote their lifelong learning, and break stereotypes surrounding ageing. 

3. Yesterday, we launched the geragogy guidelines for training senior learners. Even when we are old, we can continue to grow and learn. For instance, the Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing engages seniors in health promotion, disease management and end-of-life care. I remember in 2005, when I was the CEO of the Workforce Development Agency, we set up competency frameworks for the social sector, and the pioneer adopter was Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing.

4. Another example is Tsao Foundation’s Learning Room which equips seniors with the skills to master self-care and successful ageing. These include areas such as mindfulness, managing diseases and coping with disability. 

5. Over the years, the Foundation has also contributed valuable insights to the global discourse on ageing, such as presenting papers and participating in seminars and conferences, to share your insights and experience.

6. Singapore is ageing fast and will become a “super-aged society” by 2026. That means 21% or more of our population will be 65 years and above. This gives us two challenges. First, more people are falling sick because as we get older, we are more likely to fall sick. In Singapore, we find more people having chronic illnesses, and with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.  

Tackling capacity crunch

7. Second, as more people fall sick, our polyclinics and hospitals get more crowded and it is harder to get an appointment. After getting an appointment, the wait time is longer for non-urgent appointments such as regular check-ups, diagnosis and scans. I assure you that urgent conditions will be attended to immediately. 

8. We need to tackle both, as a matter of priority. For crowded polyclinics and hospitals, we are building more polyclinics in the long term. We will have 32 polyclinics by 2030, up from 23 now. In the longer term, we will also have more hospitals. We will have Woodlands Health Campus in the north, and another hospital in the east to relieve Changi General Hospital. We will also redevelop Alexandra Hospital, which is important to those living in Queenstown, Bukit Merah and Redhill. 

9. From now to the end of the year, we will have to do a lot more to relieve the burden of hospital crunch. We are expanding and looking for space to include more hospital beds. Some patients can also stay at home with nursing care and equipment, and do not need to stay in the hospital. By doing these together, we should have 380 to 400 more beds by end of the year. That is about half the size of a regional hospital. 

10. At the same time, we are opening more community hospitals and setting up more rehabilitation centres, called Transitional Care Facilities at a few places around Singapore. We are also opening more nursing homes. Many seniors who now stay at home and do not have anyone to take care of them, can now be transferred to a stepped down rehabilitation care facility. We are setting up about 800 of such beds, which is equivalent to one regional hospital. So by the end of the year, we will see the equivalent of one and a half regional hospital, set up to relieve the stress and capacity crunch in our hospitals. 

11. Operating these beds require manpower. We need enough nurses and doctors. We will try to recruit as many nurses as we can. This year, we target to recruit 4,000 nurses, both local and foreign. This will comprise 3,000 from the public sector and 1,000 from the private sector. As of now, we have recruited 2,000. I think by end of the year, we should be able to exceed the target of 4,000. We must be prepared that our nursing force will have a majority of Singaporeans, complemented by foreigners from different parts of the region. Together, they form one team to give the best care to our patients.

Healthier SG

12. In the long term, it is more important to ensure that everybody is as healthy as possible. This is why we have Healthier SG. I hope all our seniors who have received the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) SMS on registering for Healthier SG will do so. 

13. What do you need to do? You can register via HealthHub. If you don’t know how to use it, ask your family members and relatives to help you enrol and register. What does enrolment mean? It means you choose a doctor whom you like, and who is best for you. You will want a doctor who understands your history and medical condition, and can take care of you. It can be a polyclinic or private doctor. Nowadays, there are many clinics with more than one doctor. That is ok, as the clinic will have your records. The doctor will tell you when you should go for health screening and vaccination. 

14. Under Healthier SG, once you enrol, nationally recommended screening and vaccination are free and paid by the government. From next year, if you are currently taking medicine from a polyclinic, you can do so at the private clinic that you have chosen, at a similar price. Therefore you do not have to queue at the polyclinic, and the chosen family doctor can dispense the same medication at roughly the same price as the polyclinic. Most importantly, we hope the doctor becomes your health adviser. 


15. Today, we celebrate Tsao Foundation’s 30th anniversary. MOH has been grateful to have capable doctors and hospitals under our healthcare system. But also very importantly, we have many community partners that stand shoulder to shoulder with us, to help push forward the health foundation and build up wellness for all our people, especially our seniors. Thank you very much to Tsao Foundation for being such a good partner.

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