Dr Tan addresses issue of medical care for ageing population as he is made honorary member of SMA
President Tony Tan Keng Yam was conferred honorary membership of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) last night at the association's 56th anniversary dinner. The honour is the highest that SMA confers on individuals who have made significant contributions to the medical profession or to the nation.
In his speech, Dr Tan addressed the issue of Singapore's increasingly older population. "We need to increase emphasis on primary and family care and renew support for the field of geriatric medicine," he said.
Citing figures from the Ministry of Health, he said that in 2000, the number of Singapore residents over 65 was just above 230,000. Last year, it surpassed 430,000, with the year-on-year growth rate reaching almost 7 per cent.
With cancer, chronic disease and dementia becoming more prevalent, he said: "We are adding capacity to manage the health needs of older patients, who take longer to recover and who are at higher risk of medical complications. To help Singaporeans age healthily, the Government is exploring preventive strategies to improve population health."
Furthermore, strengthening ties between the elderly and those who care for them on a daily basis "will produce better outcomes and allow for more sustainable healthcare spending", he said.
"Where patient needs are complex, we should provide greater support in the community so that patients can cut down on trips to the tertiary hospital."
Dr Tan, who has a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Adelaide, also stressed the importance of role models - senior doctors who continue to serve past the age of retirement, and mentor the next generation of medical professionals.
"This mix of the young with the more experienced bodes well for the future, in the training and modelling for the young by the seniors, in the science and art of holistic medicine," he said. SMA president Wong Tien Hua, 45, told The Sunday Times: "We want to engage the private sector, where there are many senior doctors who have left public service, to return and teach junior doctors."
"I'm not talking about the technical aspects but the art of medicine - how to make the patient feel comfortable. These are things you cannot learn from textbooks, so this kind of role-modelling is of extreme importance," he added.
Dr Chong Yeh Woei, 52, from the Singapore Medical Specialists Centre, said: "The pioneer generation really sacrificed their population dividend - what they did with their youth - to get us where we are today. It is really timely that Dr Tan called upon us to look after them, especially through home care and primary care."
Dr Wong commended Dr Tan for his support of higher medical education and cutting edge research, citing as examples his involvement in establishing the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, and his chairmanship of the National Research Foundation.
He said in his speech: "Dr Tan's passion and support for medical education and training has led directly to the expansion of our pool of medical professionals."
Since 1959, SMA has represented most medical practitioners in both the public and private healthcare sectors. Previous recipients of the SMA honorary membership include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his late father and founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, as well as former presidents Wee Kim Wee and Benjamin Sheares.
This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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