Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, at the 10th Singapore-International Physiotherapy Congress

Lifestyle

Ms Yong Limin, Chairman, Organising Committee for the Singapore-International Physiotherapy Congress (SIPC) 2016,

Ms Lee Sin Yi, Chairman, Scientific Committee for the SIPC 2016 and President, Singapore Physiotherapy Association (SPA),

Distinguished speakers and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you here today at the 10th Singapore-International Physiotherapy Congress 2016. It is truly wonderful to see so many of you from all over the world meeting in Singapore to discuss innovations in physiotherapy practice. This congress represents a great opportunity for participants to share and learn from one another.

2 This year also marks the Diamond Jubilee of physiotherapy practice in Singapore. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the work of the pioneers, leaders, and many in the physiotherapy profession for your contributions in enhancing the healthcare system and in improving the health and lives of Singaporeans.

Transforming Physiotherapy Care

3 The theme for this year's congress, 'Physiotherapy: Transforming Care in the Community' is particularly appropriate because the healthcare landscape is rapidly transforming in Singapore, due to an ageing population. Today, one in eight Singaporeans is aged 65 and above. By 2030, this will double to one in four, or about 900,000 Singaporeans. More care is needed to cater to the growing needs of the elderly. At the same time, the nature of care that is needed is also shifting towards primary, aged and rehabilitative care. Care delivery must also change towards a multi-disciplinary model.

4 We have embarked on efforts to transform our healthcare system to better meet the needs of an ageing population. In particular, we need to go beyond healthcare to health as we enjoy longer lifespans - adding more life to years and not years to life. In line with this thrust, the centre of gravity of care will move beyond hospitals to the home and the community. We recognise that physiotherapists have a vital part to play as we adjust our current models of care. At the same time, physiotherapy services will grow in importance as there will be greater demand arising from an ageing population. Physiotherapists will play a critical role in preventive and primary care, rehabilitative care, and in supporting the expanding suite of aged care services across settings. As at end 2015, there are 1,550 registered physiotherapists across the public and private sectors. This is 11% higher than the number in 2014 and the number is set to grow as the demand for physiotherapists increases, especially with an ageing population.

From Healthcare to Health

5 With the focus changing from healthcare to health, we will boost health promotion, education and preventive health services to empower Singaporeans to take charge of their health. For instance, to prevent diabetes and delay disease progression, we launched a War on Diabetes this year.

6 Physiotherapists play an important role in championing active lifestyles and exercise. We have involved our physiotherapists in developing easy exercises for older adults to improve their muscle strength and balance. This is in line with the aim of the National Seniors' Health Programmes that were rolled out in local communities such as Tampines, Bedok, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Hong Kah North. These programmes encourage active ageing in seniors through easy exercises and providing community facilities to encourage them to exercise regularly in their homes and outside. Seniors also learn about health education and preventive health services through the Healthy Ageing 101 talks.

7 I am especially encouraged that physiotherapists are stepping up to co-create community programmes such as seniors exercises, like Bishan-Toa Payoh Active Living (Bitpal) and FIT for FUNction. The Singapore Physiotherapy Association has been working with the World Confederation for Physical Therapy on 'Adding life to years' in promoting physical activities globally. The Singapore Physiotherapy Association has also been collaborating with our National Sports Council to conduct physical function screenings in the community. Themed as FIT for FUNction, with the emphasis on 'FUN' in the FUNction, this programme aims to encourage public participation in sports organised under the ActiveSingapore programme.

From Hospital to Community

8 Our healthcare system, anchored by a strong primary care system, is moving from one built around the hospital, to one that better meets the needs of Singaporeans in the community. We are transforming the primary care sector for Singaporeans to not just provide affordable and appropriate medical care but also to enable Singaporeans to have access to appropriate allied health services in the community. This includes access to physiotherapy in some Community Health Centres, Family Medicine Clinics and polyclinics. At the same time, we are strengthening partnerships across all health and social care settings, and changing our processes to ensure that the health care system delivers care that is timely, of good quality and in the most appropriate place.

9 Earlier this year, we announced the Home and Community Care Masterplan to better support seniors to age at home and within the community. We have introduced integrated home and day care packages to allow our seniors to receive a mix of home- and centre-based services according to their needs. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy services will be expanded as capacity and quality of home and centre-based care are raised.

Professional Training and Capability Building in Physiotherapy

10 MOH recognises that the core of care provision lies in our people, even as we strengthen care services that are accessible at home and in the community. We will continue to work with the professional community to develop and strengthen physiotherapy capability in a few areas. These include training more physiotherapists through the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) which launched a four-year Bachelor of Science with Honours programme in physiotherapy in September this year. This will start with an initial intake of approximately 100 students, before progressive ramping up for future intakes. Diploma-trained physiotherapists can embark on a one-year degree upgrading programme with the SIT to gain knowledge and skills and enhance rehabilitation care provision in the primary and long term care sectors. There is also a Professional Conversion Programme for Physiotherapists (PCP-PT) which helps and supports mid-career Singaporeans in acquiring relevant training to be a physiotherapist. We can then recruit more of these professionals to strengthen our current capability in physiotherapy.

11 In addition, we need to shift our professional training and development to better support preventive health and rehabilitative care of patients in the community. Under the SkillsFuture initiative, physiotherapists will have increased advanced clinical training opportunities. We are also working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to explore ways to build the capabilities of physiotherapists across the healthcare and social service sectors.

Conclusion

12 Our physiotherapists play an important role in transforming care in the community. I am heartened to see that the Singapore Physiotherapy Association is advocating inter-professional collaboration and spearheading continuity of care from the acute to the community setting. As we consider how we can optimise and innovate across the spectrum of preventive and rehabilitative care of patients, we should also explore and employ evidence-based practice of technology in rehabilitation including robotics, virtual reality and tele-rehabilitation. In closing, I wish you a fruitful exchange of ideas and knowledge.

13 Thank you.

Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore