COS 2022: Clarifications on Preventive Healthcare and Recognition for Cleaners

MP Leon Perera

Mr Leon Perera: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Just saw two clarifications.

The first one to Minister Ong. As the Minister observed, the preventive healthcare has been a long journey. HPB was founded in 2001 and we have been spending, I think, about $300 million a year for quite some time. But over the last 10 years, I think the outcomes for chronic conditions seem to have not done very well and, perhaps, even gone in the opposite direction. I noted in my Adjournment Motion speech on preventive healthcare that the proportion of older adults with three or more chronic conditions almost doubled between 2009 and 2017. I think the Minister and others have also elaborated on some data points. So, my question is, will the Ministry sort of reflect deeply and, perhaps, audit all the efforts that have gone into preventive healthcare in the last 10, 20 years to sort of find out why there has been this disconnect between the investment and the efforts and the kind of outcomes that we have seen in the last 10 years of chronic conditions. Will that be factored into the preventive healthcare plan going forward?

My second clarification is to Senior Minister of State Dr Koh. It is a narrower one. I just wanted to confirm what he said on the COVID-19 Healthcare Award for cleaners. I actually filed a Parliamentary Question on 14 February about whether cleaners were eligible for the COVID-19 Healthcare Award. The answer seemed to be no. It did not exactly say no, but it did not say yes and it said that there are other schemes for cleaners. So, I just wanted to confirm if I heard the Senior Minister of State correctly that now the position is that cleaners in healthcare institutions are eligible for this $4,000 COVID-19 Healthcare Award.

The Chairman: Minister Ong.

Mr Ong Ye Kung: Healthier SG had been something we had been talking about for the last few months. When I came to MOH in May last year, my first speech was about preventive care. And I spoke to the healthcare community and the leaders of both private and public healthcare institutions, from then on, we have been talking about Healthier SG and consulting many people.

What I announced today, in the healthcare sector, it is not a secret – except the name “Healthier SG” which we came up with a few weeks ago. But capitation model, IT system, preventive care, enrolment process are some things we have been talking about. So, I am not surprised that Mr Leon Perera filed an Adjournment Motion talking about this topic, because it is a very live topic within the healthcare sector. And I thank him for that contribution.

5.15 pm

But when he mentioned that “why is the outcomes going the other way”, I think that argument is counter-factual. Imagine if we had not had HPB, imagine if we had not had “Step Challenge”, imagine if we had not had Primary Care Network (PCNs), Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) – I think that the outcome today would be far worse. Because we know what drove unhealthy populations are lifestyle, food, devices, sedentary lifestyle, all kinds of things that we are also guilty of.

Fortunately, we have all these interventions. But in the last 10 years, could we have, as he mentioned, thought deeply about it and come out with Healthier SG? I think the ideas would have been there, execution would not be ready. It took 10 years, more than 10 years of work from my predecessors; set in place the structure, three clusters, put in place the basic IT system. Without the IT system you can not implement this. Think through the funding process, communicate and talk to the clusters, build up the PCN structure, so that we have a basis to work on now.

That 10 years of hard work today enabled us to implement Healthier SG. So, I think we need to get that perspective correct.

As for the COVID-19 Healthcare Award (CHA), the intention is, has always been, to also distribute to outsourced workers who are full-time, working in the healthcare institutions. It has always been the intention, but the details took a while draw up. And so, shortly after this, they will be announced and they will get to know when and how much they are getting.

9 March 2022
Ministry of Health

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