Wednesday 11 September 2013

CGH to expand home care support for needy patients

By Emily Liu, TODAY, 10 Sep 2013

A programme helping financially-strapped patients who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities after they are discharged will be expanded.

The Changi General Hospital (CGH) is bumping up its HomeCare Assist programme to support up to 700 such patients a year — more than double the current number of beneficiaries (300) — and provide help including the paying of bills for private dialysis sessions while a sufferer waits to get on the list for subsidised treatment from institutions like the National Kidney Foundation.

Launched in 2002, the programme has helped more than 2,500 needy patients tide over the most crucial and immediate period after discharge and continue to be cared for at home.

This includes funding for items such as milk feed and diapers, and transport costs to take beneficiaries between their homes and day care centres. Each patient requires, on average, about S$1,000 in assistance a year.

The first upgrade since its conception, the changes come as the needs of the ageing population become more complex — some suffer multiple health problems — raising demand for services beyond the scope of the original HomeCare Assist, said Mr T K Udairam, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Eastern Health Alliance. The alliance comprises the CGH, St Andrew’s Community Hospital, The Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home and SingHealth polyclinics.

Under the expanded programme, patients in need of dialysis immediately after discharge will no longer be left stranded while applying for subsidised dialysis. HomeCare Assist will help these patients in funding for private dialysis during the wait, which can last from six weeks to three months.

Private dialysis costs up to S$2,400 a month, a large sum for those with low incomes, said Dr Goh Soon Noi, Senior Manager of Medical Social Services at the CGH.

Beneficiaries may also continue receiving support from the programme beyond the current six-month limit. HomeCare Assist will review each beneficiary’s case every six months before deciding on whether to extend help.

“The point is to support these families, as much as possible, with interim funding all the way until they are tied up to a long-term plan,” Mr Udairam said. “If we cannot tie them up to a long-term service, such as community services provided by voluntary welfare organisations, we will continue funding them, because we can’t ‘drop’ them half-way,” he added.

For 83-year-old Tan Ah Seng, HomeCare Assist has enabled him to be close to his wife Ng Soon Ai, who suffers from dementia, after he was hospitalised following a fall in 2010. The programme has provided funds for the elderly couple to attend a day care centre, which allows them to stay at home together.

The programme is purely needs-based — there is no age limit or criteria with regard to the patient’s condition. Patients’ needs are assessed by nurses who will make recommendations to the CGH, which then conducts a means test to ascertain whether they qualify for support, Dr Goh said.

“It’s not the chronic illness that’s the issue; it’s the needy part of it, because sometimes patients may be young, but due to illness are unable to work and support themselves,” Mr Udairam added.

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