Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth,
CEOs and Healthcare Leaders,
Inspirational Award winners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am pleased to join all of you here today at the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards. Today, we come together to celebrate a group of inspirational patients and caregivers who have displayed courage, resilience, and strength in the face of adversity.
2. I would like to express my appreciation to the extraordinary 64 individuals and 8 patient support groups in our midst who have inspired many with their tenacity and zest for life.
Honouring Inspirational patients
3. The past year has been exceptionally challenging for everyone as we learned to live with COVID-19. But the challenges of COVID-19 has enabled the strength and tenacity amongst many Singaporeans to shine through. Among them are our award recipients today, whose stories of optimism and grit are truly inspiring. For those of us in the healthcare profession, these awardees motivate us do better, so that we can make a bigger difference to the lives of our patients and their loved ones. Allow me to share some of these inspirational stories with you.
4. Mr Effendy Bin Idris, who will be receiving an award for Inspirational Patient category, has dilated cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscle – and has experienced heart failure twice in his life. While he waits for a heart transplant, he is currently fitted with a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), a mechanical pump implanted in his chest to help his heart pump blood. Despite his medical condition, Effendy has stepped up to serve in the executive committee of National Heart Centre Singapore’s LVAD Patient Support Group to encourage and help fellow patients. He is also an active volunteer who reaches out and counsels at-risk youths from lower-income and vulnerable families. Effendy’s dedication to helping others is indeed an inspiration to us all to lend a helping hand to those around us who need it.
5. Another award recipient today is Ms Ai Ling Sim-Devadas, who will be receiving the Partner-in-Care Award, which acknowledges her efforts in leveraging on her own experiences as a patient to helping others improve their health conditions by working with healthcare professionals. Ai Ling is a breast cancer survivor, and the co-chair of the SingHealth Patient Advocacy Network (SPAN). SPAN is a self-driven community of patients and caregivers who work together to explore new ways of improving the patient experiences within SingHealth’s institutions. Ai Ling’s background in healthcare communications and her personal experiences as a patient has provided SPAN with valuable insights to better shape patient-centric care. In 2019, Ai Ling led fellow SPAN members to produce a Plain English Glossary to help healthcare workers simplify medical jargon and communicate more effectively with patients and caregivers. This partnership shows how we can all come together to collaborate in patient care – where patients, caregivers and healthcare teams work together to build a quality healthcare system.
Honouring our caregivers
6. In addition to our patients, I would like to shine the spotlight on caregivers who have made a significant impact on patients’ lives. While most caregivers are family members, we have an Inspirational Caregiver recipient this year who exemplifies the spirit of a Good Samaritan in providing care for those in need, even if they are not family relations.
7. Taxi driver Mr Tan Lai Hock responded to the taxi booking made by Mr Lim Chong Khim, a senior with multiple medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Observing that Mr Lim had difficulty walking and lived alone in his rental flat, Lai Hock agreed to assist Mr Lim with his daily errands and ferry him to and from his medical appointments. He even went the extra mile to help Mr Lim by being his interpreter at the medical appointments. Lai Hock’s generosity and selflessness is truly admirable, and inspires all of us to do more for those less fortunate than us.
Supporting Caregivers through the Caregivers Support Action Plan
8. We recognise the important role caregivers play in enabling seniors to age in place in the community. At the same time, we understand the challenges that caregivers face, such as stepping into their caregiving roles unexpectedly and managing the complex care needs of their loved ones. Our society is ageing rapidly, and one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 years and older by 2030, which means that caregiving needs will increase and evolve over time. This is why MOH launched the Caregiver Support Action Plan (CSAP) in 2019, to call on community and agency partners to strengthen support for caregiving.
9. As part of the CSAP, we expanded the range of respite care services for caregivers to take a break from their custodial care duties. For example, we extended the respite care services to caregivers of home palliative care cancer patients, who face significant emotional and physical stress in providing end-of-life care for their loved ones. In January 2021, this home based respite care pilot was expanded to include all patients receiving home palliative care, regardless of diagnosis, so as to support the caregiving of more patients to be cared for and to pass on at home.
10. We have also worked with community partners to set up caregiver community outreach teams to better support caregivers at risk of burn-out or developing mental health issues. Seven caregiver support networks have been established in Dementia-Friendly Communities, enabling peer support among caregivers..
11. Caregivers can also tap on the Caregivers Training Grant to gain the necessary skills and knowledge they need in performing their caregiving duties, such as caring for seniors with different mobility needs, or caring for oneself during one’s caregiving journey.
12. These, together with other initiatives, reinforce our commitment to journey together with caregivers and care recipients like yourselves. We will continually review our support measures to meet the evolving needs of our caregivers.
Acknowledging our patient support groups
13. In addition to these very inspiring patients and caregivers, there are many patient support groups led by healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to provide patients with information, guidance, as well as to form a network for social and emotional support. For instance, the Liver and Pancreas Support Group at the Singapore General Hospital engaged their members through light-hearted activities such as art, yoga and healthy cooking sessions. The group also collaborates with other support groups and institutions to organise events such as art expression and narrative workshops. These events foster close interaction between members and creates a safe environment for them to share personal experiences, uplift one another, and empower each other.
14. In closing, I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the awardees today. You have demonstrated immense resilience, strength, and courage to overcome adversity and you inspire us with your positivity and zest for life.
15. I would like to thank SingHealth and their partners for doing their part in recognising the invaluable contributions of our patients, caregivers, and patient support groups, and for organising this meaningful award ceremony every year. Thank you.