Saturday, July 14, 2012

MOH to strengthen efforts to provide palliative care to more patients

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be strengthening efforts to provide home care for patients going through the last stages of their lives.

With the prevalence of chronic diseases, the ministry is looking into extending palliative care beyond traditional cancer care to benefit more non-cancer patients.

Currently, MOH is funding a S$12 million programme for over 3,000 end-organ failure patients to receive structured home palliative care over a five-year period.

A three-year pilot project for integrated home palliative care is also already underway.

Started in February last year, the project involving Dover Park Hospice and Tan Tock Seng Hospital sees patients being directly admitted to the hospital if they require higher-intensity care.

The project costs S$3 million and is funded by the Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund. It has seen more than 100 patients.

As patient's records are shared, such an arrangement helps smoothen the transition of patients across care settings and minimise visits to the emergency departments.

If successful, such a pilot project could be extended to other hospices.

Speaking at the Singapore Palliative Care Conference on Saturday morning, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, said the majority of patients prefer to be cared for at home towards the last phase of their lives.

"Families sometimes misconceive that palliative care patients can only be adequately cared for in hospitals or inpatient hospices. This is not true. Even when the disease is advanced, it is still possible to look after patients very well at home if the necessary expertise and services are made available," he said.

Other areas of home palliative care to be strengthened are the training of caregivers, and providing better bereavement support in the community.

HCA Hospice Care says it will be enhancing their training curriculum for caregivers so that training methods are standardised.

In January this year, a committee was set up to study the recommendations for a National Strategy for Palliative Care.

The committee is looking at service development, education and training and standards of palliative care.

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