Mobile clinic to benefit diabetes patients

Mobile clinic to benefit diabetes patients

SINGAPORE - A new clinic on wheels is taking health screenings and advice to patients so they can get better care for conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure - almost at their doorsteps.

The mobile community health centre will be for people living in central Singapore, including Bishan, Hougang, Toa Payoh and Whampoa.

An estimated 150,000 people in this region may have diabetes. Yet up to half may not know they suffer from the condition and a significant number do not follow up with proper screenings, said National Healthcare Group's (NHG) director for regional health Pamela Ding.

This could lead to complications down the road, which may be harder and more expensive to treat.

NHG's health centre hopes to change that by taking diabetic eye and foot screenings closer to patients' homes. "Some patients with eye and foot problems find it inconvenient to travel to hospitals and polyclinics for these checks," she said.

"We want to save them the hassle."

The importance of screening was highlighted by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the launch of the new mobile service yesterday.

"The life expectancy of Singaporean women and men at birth today is 85 years and 80 years respectively," he said. "We must help ourselves keep healthy... by having a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and going for appropriate health screening and follow-up."

The mobile centre - the size of a 24-seater bus - will be staffed by a nurse and an assistant to provide diabetic retinal photography and diabetic foot screening for patients.

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in Singapore, which can often be prevented by early detection and monitoring of the eyes, while foot problems are common causes of chronic disabilities in patients with diabetes. Early identification and intervention of those at risk prevents complications and helps reduce the number of amputations.

Those with other chronic conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol may also visit the centre for nurse counselling services.

The mobile centre will stop at 17 different locations monthly, including community clubs and Housing Board carparks.

General practitioners (GPs) can refer patients to the service and they will be seen on an appointment basis. Pioneers and Community Health Assist Scheme members will get subsidies.

The mobile centre currently supports more than 300 GPs in Singapore's central region, who flagged diabetes as a major concern.

By 2050, an estimated one in two Singaporeans will be diabetic by the age of 70. The majority will suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which is typically due to excess weight and physical inactivity.

This condition, however, can be controlled with a healthy diet, exercise, early diagnosis and treatment.

Currently, diabetes patients in places like Bedok, Tiong Bahru and Jurong East benefit from similar services by health centres near their flats.

The People's Association also provides health checks for a nominal fee, and encourages the elderly to participate in activities such as brisk walks and qigong under its Wellness Programme.

Patients can check NHG's website to see when the mobile clinic might arrive in their neighbourhoods.

Diabetes patient Sarasvathy Rama Panickar is one of 90 patients who has benefited from the mobile centre since it was piloted last November.

"I can just walk to my community club for screening; it's so much more convenient," said the 74-year- old, who also saves the $6 taxi fare to the polyclinic.

kashc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 02, 2015.
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