'Zero tolerance policy' for elderly abuse: Health Minister

PHOTO: 'Zero tolerance policy' for elderly abuse: Health Minister

In his speech on making Singapore elderly friendly, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong called for improvements to be made in the quality of aged care facilities here.

He pointed out instances of neglect and abuse of the elderly, stressing that while these are few and far between, Mr Gan said "one case of abuse is one case too many".

Last month, a video footage emerged showing an elderly woman being abused by caregivers in the Nightingale Nursing Home.

"When it comes to safe care, we should adopt a zero tolerance policy," he said.

He added that ensuring quality of care is a joint responsibility, where a robust Government regulatory framework must be complemented by service providers constantly improving and implementing frameworks within their own institutions to ensure that care professionals uphold the standard of care required of them.

To enhance care standards, the Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA) will be looking into providing a clear definition of what constitutes a good standard of care for the sector.

The Health Ministry will be involving representatives from the public, providers and clinicians to review existing standards and guidelines, starting with nursing homes.

MOH will also be providing additional avenues for patients and caregivers to submit feedback.

One way is the setting up a Visitors Programme, where volunteers from across society will be invited to visit nursing homes, chat with patients and give providers suggestions on improvements.

This is a voluntary scheme and will also help nursing homes identify areas they have done well and areas they can improve upon, Mr Gan said.

To date, 41 nursing homes have signed up for the programme and 48 volunteers recruited.

Seniors and their caregivers can also participate by being discerning in choosing aged care providers and providing timely feedback on services, he added.

In addition, Mr Gan announced that the government is prepared to help aged care providers recruit staff, enhance the skills level of their workforce and improve processes to deliver better care.

He reminded the public that addressing the issue of an ageing population cannot be a government driven one, and that caring for our seniors is a collective responsibility.

Many of the aged care facilities will have to be sited within communities for the convenience of seniors.

On the Government's part, Advisors, grassroots leaders and residents will be consulted on its plans for facility development. This is to strike a careful balance between addressing the needs of the seniors and the needs of residents in the vicinity.

This comes in the footsteps of several communities rejecting eldercare facilities in their vicinities, complaining that the facilities will depreciate their property values and rob them of communal spaces, among other concerns.