Singapore’s MOH plans to have 6,000 home palliative care places and 360 inpatient palliative care beds by 2020

Komorebi Post–  In Singapore, palliative care is emerging as an approach towards caring for terminally ill patients, and those who suffer from various life-threatening illness, most of them have advanced stage cancer, especially in recent decades. According to World Health Organization (WHO) palliative care or hospice care improves the quality of life of patients and their families, provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms; and other problems, physical, psychosocial.

Societal taboos and palliative care

The key challenges faced in the provision of palliative care are societal taboos, where people are uncomfortable to speak about death. Many initiatives took place to encourage people to discuss death and improve awareness about palliative care options. Before-I-Die Project with its third instalment which exhibited large wooden chalkboards in public areas and invited people to write their answers to some questions, or simply pen their thoughts on end-of-life care and reflections on life. To ensure that quality palliative care is provided, treatment must be focused on effective pain relief and adequate support towards a patient from not only medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, medical social workers but also their family members as well. An examination into the quality of palliative care would not be complete without looking into the important role played by medical professionals, as they play a key role in ensuring the physical and psycho-emotional well-being of patients. Perhaps to ensure the public better understand their roles and the experience of patients who have received palliative care, Channel NewsAsia produced a 5-episode documentary entitled ‘Facing Death’ in 2015 which sheds light on the behind-the-scenes work, challenges and views of doctors and nurses in providing palliative care in both a home and hospital setting. Essentially, a common goal for them, apart from prescribing or administering medicine, is to ensure that their patients pass on peacefully and with dignity as well as find meaning in the last days of their lives.

Governmental palliative care plan

Ministry of Health (MOH) has been ramping up palliative care services to meet the demands of an ageing population by increasing the capacity of home palliative care places and inpatient palliative care beds. The latter had also released a palliative care plan to ensure that palliative care is made affordable. Moreover, plans are being made to raise the capabilities of palliative care professionals and attract more locals. Where healthcare financing is concerned, the MOH is intending to shift its focus from acute services to community and long-term care. For example, the MOH intends that palliative care provided in nursing homes are not disrupted if the facility shuts down through the appointment of a temporary operator. This will prevent patients having to opt for more expensive treatment options such as ones offered by acute care hospitals. Whilst the Singapore government grapples with the challenges in building up its palliative care capability and infrastructure in the face of a rapidly ageing population, it could also consider educating its people on the importance of dying well through palliative care and being comfortable to talk about death. Warts and all, isn’t adding life to one’s years more important than just adding years to one’s life?

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