Monday 19 January 2015

SAF Launches One-Stop Cardiac Screening Facility

Speedier heart tests for SAF personnel
Civilian-run centre reduces hassle, waiting time for results
By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2015

A NEW civilian-run heart screening centre has been set up to reduce the time taken and hassle of picking up heart problems among national service-bound males and military personnel.

This latest move by the Singapore Armed Forces is aimed at blurring the line between military and civilian health-care systems, so as to make better use of resources.

At the SAF Cardiac Fitness Centre (SCFC), pre-enlistees and servicemen can book an appointment for their tests and get the results, which determine if they are healthy enough for combat training, within three months - half the time it used to take.

Previously, these men had to shuttle between the SAF's Medical Classification Centre in Depot Road, the Military Medicine Institute, as well as six public hospitals to do an echocardiogram, which produces three-dimensional images of the heart, and treadmill tests.

Such tests pick up moderate to severe heart conditions assessed as likely to cause sudden cardiac death, like irregular heartbeat and leaky heart valves.

The new SAF heart-screening centre, which went operational in 2013 and is housed within the recently opened National Heart Centre Singapore in Outram Road, was launched officially by Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

He was briefed on how the SAF medical facility will share state-of-art heart-screening technology, and have access to the Republic's leading cardiologists.

Mr Chan said there is no reason for the SAF's medical system to be run and developed separately from the national health-care system, because Singapore's soldiers are also civilians.

By integrating both health-care systems and pooling resources, they can draw upon each other's expertise and make better use of the finite resources.

For instance, the SAF medical corps is looking to partner Jurong Health to provide training for emergency responders and experienced civilian doctors working alongside SAF medical officers in camps, noted Mr Chan, who was the former army chief before entering politics in 2011.

He said: "It is also the way that we do justice to... (and) stretch the defence and health budgets that much more."

The SAF's Chief of Medical Corps Kang Wee Lee said a one-stop heart-screening centre not only improves operational efficiency, but also ensures consistent quality in how doctors screen and analyse data.

The centre also allows the SAF to collate and share data that can help lower the risk of cardiac cases among its personnel.

Out of the 800 to 1,000 servicemen now referred to the SCFC every month, four in 10 are NS-bound males who have been red-flagged during their pre-enlistment medical screening, which determines how healthy they are and the type of training they can undergo.

The rest are NSmen or career soldiers, mostly above age 45, who have to be medically cleared to take the military's annual physical fitness tests.

Said full-time national serviceman Aaron Tan, who discovered an underlying heart abnormality which caused frequent heart palpitations only after he underwent screening in 2013: "Luckily, I was able to get tested and knew the results in less than two months... allowing me to decide on the treatment I needed."


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