Processing... Please wait.

A glimpse into the future for palliative care in Singapore.
13 March 2014

How has the world changed post-NDR 2013? What are the implications for palliative care? Dr Jeremy Lim, Principal Consultant for Insights Health Associates summed up the outlook – bright.

Governmental Support

Speaking at an SHC Multidisciplinary Palliative Care Forum, Dr Lim cited not only Prime Minister Lee’s National Day Rally (18th August), but also Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s speech at the Academy of Medicine (23rd August) as key indicators of a greater degree of support for patients who often fall under our care, such as the vulnerable elderly, and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

Besides talk of the town Medishield Life, which will extend its reach to all Singaporeans from newborn to centenarian, PM Lee also brought up a focus on greater support in outpatient care – which is especially pertinent for our sector. The government will move towards increasing subsidies for lower and middle income patients visiting Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOCs), and enabling the use of Medisave on outpatient treatments.

The removal of the lower age boundary for the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) will provide financial support for paediatric patients suffering from chronic illness below 40 by subsidising consultation and medication costs.

Dr Lim also drew from Mr Tharman’s speech to point out Singapore’s capacity to push for a greater financial support in palliative care, with reserves available for use ‘on social and economic priorities’. These include subsidies for those in need, and tax incentives and grants supporting the community and civic sector.

In the face of increasing demand and the ageing population, the only way for support for our sector to move is up.

Dr Lim pointed out Singapore’s ‘massive capacity crunch’ when it came to hospital acute care and extended care beds, and the comparatively lower public spending on healthcare. In the face of increasing demand and the ageing population, recognised in the Population White Paper, the only way for support for our sector to move is up.

The Direction Forward

While these reforms will certainly affect our patients, Dr Lim cited the Report on the National Strategy for Palliative Care as having an even greater influence on the future of palliative care, asserting that the implementation of this strategy hand-in-hand with a cooperative government that would really push the nation’s palliative care for.

Coordinated by Lien Foundation and commissioned by MOH in 2011, the report advocates a community-wide acceptance of palliative care throughout Singapore’s social strata. Beyond political support, measures like increasing the number of inpatient palliative care beds within hospitals will help to raise awareness and reduce social stigma among, while increasing the level of exposure in the mainstream curriculum of nurses and doctors will address manpower issues.

Exposure to palliative care in the mainstream curriculum of nurses and doctors at institutes like NUS will help address manpower issues.

‘How will we reconcile the national strategy with the low capacity we currently encounter?’ asked a member of the audience during the Q&A session. Dr Lim answered that professionals in the field need to encourage others to join the field, and adopt the ‘area of need’ scheme, with the principle that somebody is better than nobody at all.

Just like every other industry, it’s a game of demand and supply – and thankfully, it looks like our sector’s move towards meeting demand with supply will be supported in the years to come.


1. Prime Ministers Office

2. Ministry of Finance.