Friday 25 November 2011

Govt looking at allowing Medisave for home care services & elder care leave options

By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 23 Nov 2011

The government is looking at allowing the use Medisave for home care services and reviewing current subsidies to make home care options more affordable.

This was announced by Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, at the opening of the TOUCH Home Care Centre in Jurong on Wednesday.

78-year-old Sapri Amat suffers from hypertension and cataract, and some months ago, a gout attack left him almost bed-bound.

His wife Madam Piah has cancer.

Their only caregiver - son Mohamad Sapri - left his job about two years ago to care for his elderly parents.

The new TOUCH Home Care Centre in Jurong now provides transport for Madam Piah for her hospital appointment visits.

A nurse and therapist also visit Mr Sapri to monitor his condition and provide home-rehabilitation.

After subsidies, the family pays about S$60 a month for the services - 10 per cent of the total cost.

Madam Piah said: "I feel better. There are now people to look after me. If not, there is only me taking care of my husband, along with my son."

TOUCH Home Care is only the second voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) to provide home care services in the West, an area it said has been under-served, till now. But in just two months, its staff of 10 are now catering to the needs of 30 clients, a number it hopes to expand to some 300 within the next two years.

Besides VWOs providing these services, needy Singaporeans can soon also tap on Medifund for home care services. Some 1,000 Singaporeans are expected to benefit.

But the government acknowledges that cost is still a big factor, and it may also allow the use of Medisave for such services.

Dr Khor said: "Home care will play a substantive role in future as one of the care options for the elderly. The issue of accessibility and affordability of elder care services is critical and we need to address that, so we are looking at ways to grow the home care sector.

"Some of the areas we are looking at include reviewing our subsidies as well as the use of Medisave."

The government is also looking at leave options to alleviate the stress faced by caregivers.

The Agency for Integrated Care and the Centre for Enabled Living will provide TOUCH with a funding of $700,000 over two years.

Public sector takes lead in granting elder care leave
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2011

FOR years, Ms Alby Lam's 60-year-old mother could not be persuaded to have a medical check-up.

But that changed in February this year when Ms Lam, 36, told her mother she would take a day off work to accompany her for a check-up.

'My mother said, 'I don't want to waste your annual leave'. But when I told her it was leave we get to take care of elderly relatives, she agreed,' said the senior manager of finance at the South West Community Development Council.

Her employer, the People's Association (PA), is one of several government agencies that grant elder care leave.

It gives two days of paid leave to its employees to take their elderly relatives for medical consultations.

But such leave is unusual. A government committee on ageing is considering whether to make it compulsory for companies to grant it, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament this week.

It is one of several measures being discussed, he said in reply to Marine Parade GRC MP Tin Pei Ling, who asked if the Government would consider mandating it.

Besides PA, other public sector organisations that have introduced it include the Competition Commission of Singapore and the National Heritage Board.

Such agencies give two to three days of paid elder care leave each year, which can often be taken to care for both parents and parents-in-law. In some cases, it can be taken for grandparents too.

Up to a quarter of the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) staff takes elder care leave each year. It was introduced in 2009. Similarly, about one fifth of workers at the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has used the leave so far this year.

'Just as we acknowledge the childcare challenges faced by employees who are parents, we also recognise that there are those who have elderly loved ones to care for,' said Ms Doreen Loh, HSA division director for human capital and the legal division.

One trailblazer was the Workforce Development Agency, which introduced elder care leave in 2004.

At the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, 'family care time-off' is given for its staff to care for a spouse, elderly parents or children. The three days of paid leave are on top of childcare leave.

Calls for mandatory elder care leave have been made in Parliament before but were rejected by the Government.

In 2006, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi said the Government would not legislate elder care leave as it would affect companies' costs and make it hard for them to tailor benefits to suit workers.

A Manpower Ministry survey last year found that about 10 per cent of private sector companies offer parental care leave, up from 6 per cent in 2008.

For HPB corporate communications executive Melissa Anne Manuel, 27, such leave lets her be there for her loved ones.

She is taking leave to accompany her father to a bone marrow test tomorrow.

'I want to be there with him because it's going to be very painful,' she said.

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