Assisi Hospice

Assisi Hospice to ramp up palliative home care capacity by 50% by end-2026

published by Straits Times on June 10, 2024
Photo by Assisi HosAt present, Assisi Hospice serves about 600 home care patients at any one time, up from 550 in 2023. In 2016, its capacity was 150. Photo by Straits Times.

Assisi Hospice is planning to increase its patient capacity for palliative home care services by 50 per cent within the next two years, in anticipation of an increase in demand for the service due to Singapore’s ageing population.

It aims to assist 3,000 home care patients a year by end-2026, up from 2,058 patients in 2023, said Assisi Hospice chief executive Choo Shiu Ling on June 9 on the sidelines of Assisi Fun Day.

The hospice’s biggest fund-raising event of the year was held at SJI International School in Thomson Road.

“The whole palliative care sector is trying to ramp up its service. It is in anticipation of the ageing population and more need (for such services) in the next two to four years,” Ms Choo said, noting that one in four citizens will be aged 65 and above by 2030.

Palliative home care is typically for patients who have a prognosis of one year or less, and wish to die at home.

Assisi Hospice now serves about 600 home care patients at any one time, up from 550 in 2023. In 2016, its capacity was 150. The hospice aims to increase this number to 800 by 2026, said Ms Choo.

In March, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that the total palliative home care capacity in Singapore will be increased to 3,600 by end-2025, up by 50 per cent from the current 2,400.

As part of the National Strategy for Palliative Care, relaunched in July 2023, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will also increase inpatient palliative care capacity by 15 per cent and day hospice capacity by 12 per cent within the same timeframe.

The total increased capacities will be about 300 inpatient beds and 140 day hospice places by end-2025.

Palliative home care is typically free or at minimal cost due to government subsidies and charity dollars. With home care, an assigned nurse will make visits, with the frequency determined by the patient’s condition and needs.

Assisi Hospice also provides training to caregivers and a 24-hour helpline to provide guidance if a medical crisis occurs outside work hours.

In March, MOH also announced it will set aside $23 million over the next three years for an equipment rental scheme (ERS), to be launched in October.

“The ERS will support Singaporeans by providing eligible palliative care patients with means-tested subsidies to offset the cost of equipment rental for home-based care.

“All eligible palliative care patients with a prognosis of one year or less will benefit from ERS subsidies according to the revised palliative care subsidy framework and will receive at least 50 per cent subsidy, regardless of their monthly per capita household income,” said the ministry.

Ms Choo said the hospice is on a constant lookout for volunteers who can help with patient care, as well as with fund raising and advocacy and outreach programmes.

As at 2023, it had 38 people in its home care clinical team, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and medical social workers.

In 2024, Assisi Hospice also opened up its grief and bereavement care services to the public “as its contribution back to the society”.

Ms Choo said: “A lot of understanding and acceptance in the community is needed.

“So, we started off by offering a ‘Grief Cafe’, where caregivers – not necessarily of our own patients – can come and speak with other people who have gone through the same thing, so that they build a community.”

Other services include individual counselling and support groups.

City Developments Limited (CDL) group CEO Sherman Kwek and group chief operating officer Kwek Eik Sheng (left) taking part in a challenge to transport over 100 bags of rice across 30m in eight minutes. CDL and its business partners raised over $200,000 from this challenge. Photo by Straits Times.

In 2023, the hospice reached out to 792 families to provide support within the first month after a patient dies, and 562 counselling sessions were provided.

At the Assisi Fun Day, property firm City Developments Limited and its business partners raised more than $200,000 from a challenge to transport over 100 bags of rice – weighing more than 1,000kg in total – across 30m within eight minutes.

Assisi Hospice aims to raise $1 million from the carnival, which will go towards the different initiatives.

More than 10,000 people turned up for the carnival, including the guest of honour, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, and Assisi Hospice’s patron, Ms Ho Ching.

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