SAF to improve medical care for soldiers: Defence Minister

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said the Singapore Armed Forces is reviewing its medical care system for soldiers so as to improve it.

In his Facebook post last night, the minister said as the health care needs of the entire population have increased, the various new initiatives by SAF would take a few years to implement, "but we are working hard to achieve steady progress".

One priority is to reduce the waiting time for enlistment due to medical assessments, especially for those with more complicated medical problems, said Dr Ng. The SAF is working with medical specialists and ground commanders to address this issue.

Another priority is to partner medical specialists in established institutions so that soldiers get dedicated care.

SAF worked with National Heart Centre Singapore in order to have its own Cardiac Fitness Centre.

Launched by Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing on Friday, the SAF Cardiac Fitness Centre is a dedicated one-stop facility that provides specialised tests like echocardiography and the CT coronary calcium scoring for pre-enlistees and servicemen found to have risk factors.

Dr Ng said the SAF would announce more initiatives along the way to ensure that SAF soldiers get good and prompt medical attention.

Located within the new 12-storey National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) building, the cardiac fitness centre serves pre-enlistees, SAF Regulars and SAF Operationally Ready National Servicemen who have been referred to by SAF medical officers to undergo specialised cardiac screening investigations to determine their cardiovascular fitness.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the centre, Mr Chan said it is one of the SAF's collaborations with local healthcare institutions to provide better care for servicemen.

He said: "Ministry of Defence and the SAF's philosophy has always been to design our healthcare system to be integrated as part of the national system. In this way, the SAF can benefit from the advances and the capacity of the civilian healthcare system. Likewise, the civilian system can also draw upon the capabilities and capacity of the SAF."

A media statement from the Defence Ministry said the centralisation of specialised cardiac screening tests in centre would enable the SAF to shorten the screening turn-around time and determine pre-enlistees' medical classification and servicemen's medical fitness for operational and physical training such as the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), more efficiently.

The facility would also allow the SAF to provide greater continuity of cardiac care for pre-enlistees and servicemen, and bring about "greater consistency in the conduct and interpretation of specialised cardiac tests".

Cardiac screening is an essential part of medical screening that all pre-enlistees and servicemen have to undergo before they are enlisted and deployed for military training and operations.

Specialised cardiac screening investigations at the centre are part of the SAF's cardiac screening protocols for pre-enlistees and servicemen who have been found to have abnormalities or cardiovascular risk factors during their initial medical examination.

Since 2008, the SAF has been partnering NHCS in reviewing various investigation modalities in optimising cardiac screening. The establishment of the SCFC would further strengthen this collaboration, said Rear-Admiral (DR) Kang Wee Lee, SAF's Chief of Medical Corps.

He said: "With all cardiac screening being centralised at a single dedicated centre, the SAF will be able to better collate and study the cardiovascular risk profile of our pre-enlistees and servicemen. We will continue to work closely with our cardiology counterparts at NHCS to leverage the latest cardiac screening modalities and best medical practices. This ensures that the SAF cardiac screening protocols remain robust and relevant."