Friday, January 20, 2012

Challenges ahead as govt ramps up elder care services

SINGAPORE: The government plans to beef up manpower as it targets to significantly expand aged care services over the next decade. But industry players say retaining workers is a big challenge.

Low Mui Lang, Executive Director of the Peacehaven Nursing Home, said: "The elderly needs to be fed, changed and showered. Some of them, you need to bring them to the toilet every four hours, or they may be on diapers, you need to change them.

"So as you grow older, as a care worker, sometimes you find it a bit straining on your back. It's a continuous, tedious, mundane kind of work."

What needs to be done is job re-design, and this involves tapping on a hidden pool of labour such as unemployed housewives or retirees. It also means introducing flexible work hours and attractive pay.

Lim Sia Hoe, general manager of NTUC Eldercare, said: "(We) must pay people well enough so they can actually deliver service better. (We must ask ourselves,) how do we invest in them to make them more professional when delivering such services?"

Besides manpower issues, stakeholders Channel NewsAsia spoke with said that funding continues to remain a challenge in the eldercare sector. One suggestion is for the government to set up a community elder care fund that is both flexible and accessible.

Ms Lim proposed a co-funded model between the government and service providers that is specifically used for serving elderly in the community.

She said: "It could be upfront, let's say, S$1 million (from each side), contributing to this fund. Then every service provider will (be able to) use the money for the purpose of serving the elderly. With very broad guidelines, it will be flexible enough for us to deliver services based on a very broad, easily administered kind of process."

The Ministerial Committee on Ageing will also be reviewing aged care financing schemes to look into what can be done to make aged care more affordable.

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