Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin
MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC
Question No. 885
To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether it is mandatory for medical personnel to refer vulnerable pregnant women they encounter (including but not limited to single mothers or teenage mothers) to avenues for support and assistance during and post-pregnancy; and (b) what types of assistance are available to such individuals.
Healthcare professionals are legally required to notify the Police if they suspect that an offence, such as suspected sexual assault or physical abuse, has been committed under Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). In addition, healthcare professionals are bound by professional ethical codes to make decisions in the best interests of their patients and to refer patients with needs that they are unable to address, to other avenues for appropriate care.
Pregnant women with identified needs are provided with psychosocial support and referred to medical social workers, nurses, care coordinators, as well as social and community services for relevant assistance as part of routine obstetric care.
For example, to better support pregnant women from low-income families with symptoms of depression and anxiety, the National University Hospital (NUH) launched a pilot programme, Promoting Parental emotional health to Enhance child Learning (ProPEL), in 2018 to provide tailored interventions to these women during pregnancy and until the child turns one year old. Under this programme, case managers and social workers provide support and deliver cognitive-behavioural therapy and occupational therapy-based interventions through home visits, where necessary.
In addition, under the KidSTART Home Visitation Programme, which is led by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), in partnership with the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and NUH, home visitors equip low-income pregnant mothers and parents/caregivers of newborns with knowledge on early childhood development, health and nutrition up till the child is three years old.
To complement the efforts of public agencies, there are several ground-up initiatives within the community to support vulnerable pregnant women – Safe Place, an initiative by Lakeside Family Services, provides unsupported pregnant women and mothers with newborn babies a temporary place to stay for up to 4 months after giving birth, and offers them case management and counselling services. In addition, Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support provides casework and counselling for teenagers aged 21 and below who have difficulty in coping with their pregnancy, to help them make informed decisions regarding their pregnancy and parenting roles and provide them with parenting and self-care skills. It also offers befriending services to support the teenagers in their social and emotional well-being.