Health-care staff to be trained to shed light on Pioneer package

PHOTO: Health-care staff to be trained to shed light on Pioneer package

SINGAPORE - A major effort is under way in a move to explain the details of the Pioneer Generation Package to Singaporeans, after a poll found that many are in the dark about its benefits or do not feel assured by them.

About 1,000 frontline staff in public hospitals and polyclinics are being trained to explain the package to patients, and address their questions and concerns. The training has begun and a communications drive will start in September.

The drive will include more television and radio messages broadcast in various Chinese dialects, and the publishing of more non-English brochures for the elderly.

The Pioneer Generation Package is the centrepiece of this year's national Budget.

The communications push comes after a telephone poll last month of 1,500 Singaporeans of all ages showed that seven in 10 citizens had heard of it.

But among those who knew of it, two fifths could not name any of its benefits, Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo said yesterday at a media conference with Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor. They are chairing a task force set up to raise awareness of the package announced in February.

Mrs Teo said half of those surveyed felt more assured that the package would make health-care costs for the pioneers significantly more affordable. One third were unsure or neutral.

Said Dr Khor: "We are keenly aware that there is still a significant number of people whom we need to provide assurance to, and we need to do this in a multi-pronged approach."

Health care is one of the key prongs because settings like hospitals and clinics are "good contact points" to connect with seniors, said Dr Khor.

She cited a 2012 Central Provident Fund Board study which found that more than eight in 10 of those aged 62 and above used primary health-care services within a year.

For example, when they are trained, hospital and polyclinic receptionists will be able to identify those eligible for the Pioneer package's benefits when they register and when they are billed.

"It's nice for people to know you've come to see a specialist and you'll be charged this way," said ageing expert Kanwaljit Soin.

But what is also important for seniors' peace of mind is a support network, such as having people to take them to clinics, added the former Nominated Member of Parliament. "You have to look at health-care costs as part of a much bigger package."

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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