DPM Heng Swee Keat at the St Andrew's Mission Hospital - Singapore Anglican Community Services Charity Gala Dinner

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 25 October 2019

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the St Andrew's Mission Hospital - Singapore Anglican Community Services Charity Gala Dinner "Love Never Fails" on 25 October 2019.

The Right Reverend Rennis Ponniah
Bishop of Singapore and President of the St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital and Singapore Anglican Community Services

Ms Denise Phua,
Mayor, Central CDC

Board Members of the St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital and
Singapore Anglican Community Services

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good evening.

I am very happy to join you this evening for your charity gala dinner in support of two very worthy organisations – The Singapore Anglican Community Services, and St Andrew’s Mission Hospital.

This year’s charity gala is special because the Anglican community is also celebrating its bicentennial in Singapore.

The first Anglicans came to Singapore in 1819.

Since the beginning, Anglicans in Singapore have consistently lived out the core beliefs of your faith – to be a light to those around you, and to love your neighbours.

In particular, you have focused on serving the most vulnerable in society – the poor, women, children and orphans.

For instance, one of the oldest girls’ schools in Singapore – St Margaret’s School – was founded in 1842 by an Anglican Missionary, Mrs Maria Dyer.

In a similar manner, St Andrew’s Medical Mission was established in 1913 to serve women and children, who had limited access to healthcare.

The Mission’s first facility was a dispensary at Bencoolen Street.

But that soon proved to be insufficient to meet the needs of the growing population in Singapore.

Over the next few years, the Medical Mission rapidly expanded, opening new dispensaries in Cross Street and Pasir Panjang, offering both inpatient and outpatient services.

When the dispensary moved to a new building in Erskine Road in 1923, it was renamed the St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SAMH).

This building at Erskine Road is actually still around today, behind Maxwell Food Centre!

Over the subsequent decades, SAMH continued to serve the community faithfully – including during the trying times of the Japanese Occupation.

The spirit of service that underpins the mission of SAMH also drove the creation of the Singapore Anglican Community Services.

SACS has its roots in the work of Mr and Mrs Francis Thomas.

In the 1950s, when Singapore was still rebuilding itself after the war, Mr Thomas, who was then a teacher at St Andrew’s School, started offering counselling services to students who faced emotional troubles.

His wife, Mrs Catharine Lee Eng Neo, who was a nurse, started a free clinic for poor villagers living in Potong Pasir.

Mr Thomas went on to set up the Anglican Welfare Council, which was later restructured to bring together the various community service arms of the Anglican Church and renamed the Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS).

In the years after independence, as government took on a larger role in providing public healthcare and social services, SAMH and SACS evolved to support those who needed an extra hand.

Today, SAMH and SACS provide a range of services, including: A school and home for children and adults with Autism; the St Andrew’s Community Hospital and outpatient clinics; nursing homes and Senior Activity Centres; and counselling support for those in distress or experiencing crisis.

The services that you offer may have changed, but fundamentally, it reflects an unchanging focus on serving the most vulnerable.

One such group of individuals are those who have mental health conditions, and require psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation.

Mental illness is still not well-understood in Singapore, and individuals with mental health conditions sometimes avoid diagnosis and treatment out of fear that they will be stigmatised by society, or even by their loved ones.

This makes the holistic, person-centric care at the St Andrew’s Nursing Home (SANH) in Buangkok very valuable.

Operated by SAMH and with the support of SACS, this home functions on the belief that those with mental illness should not be defined solely by their illness, but instead loved, served and supported as the unique individuals that they are.

Thus, residents at this home receive not just professional psychiatric and nursing care, but also emotional support through counselling, and therapy.

One resident who has benefitted is Mr Teo Say Siong.

After being diagnosed with schizophrenia, Mr Teo was admitted to SANH at Buangkok in 2013.

Mr Teo’s recovery journey was initially challenging as he found it difficult to overcome his behavioural issues.

However, during his time at SANH, Mr Teo learnt to better manage his temper and personal finances.

Through his determination and support from SANH, Mr Teo succeeded in his rehabilitation programme.

Mr Teo now has a job at a restaurant through SANH’s support.

This opportunity to work gave Mr Teo not just with a means to support himself and his family, but also with a sense of dignity, purpose, and fulfilment.

Mr Teo also actively participated in various recreational activities during his time at SANH.

He was part of the Arts Residency Programme, a joint initiative between the Agency for Integrated Care and the National Arts Council, which aims to spread the joy of arts to nursing home residents.

In fact, Mr. Teo’s beautiful art piece was up for display at last year’s “SPARKS!” Art Wellness Exhibition!

There are many residents like Mr Teo, who have benefitted greatly from the quality care and support at SANH, and have gone on to live full lives and contribute meaningfully to society.

The contribution of organisations like SAMH and SACS are vital in helping our society cope with the needs of our ageing population.

By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 years and above, compared to one in seven today.

Our life expectancy is close to 85 years, the highest in the world, surpassing other countries including Japan!

The good news is that Singaporeans also have the longest Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) in the world – almost 75 years.

The not so good news is that even so, we still spend on average more than 10 years in ill health.

Because our families are also getting smaller, and there may be fewer caregivers to help, strong community support will be increasingly important.

On Government’s part, we are making structural changes to our healthcare system to better serve these needs.

In particular, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been working closely with community care partners to transform healthcare delivery, and improve access to primary and community care.

We have also been working to strengthen links between social care and healthcare in order to help our seniors age in place. For example, we have scaled up the Community Networks for Seniors (CNS) programme across all 89 neighbourhoods nationwide to anchor a strong community care system for seniors. The CNS aims to support well seniors by linking them up with preventive health programmes in the community, befriends lonely seniors and sews up social and health support services for frail seniors where necessary.

SAMH and SACS have been important partners in this endeavour.

For instance, St Andrews Nursing Home (SANH) at Taman Jurong, which is operated by SACS with the support of SAMH, not only cares for those with mental health issues, but also provides medical and rehabilitative care for seniors.

It is one of three such nursing homes run by SAMH and SACS to provide high-quality, affordable care to our seniors.

SAMH and SACS have also set up Senior Activity Centres in many neighbourhoods to help our seniors stay active, and connected to the community.

These senior activity centres organise many engaging activities for our seniors including karaoke, arts and crafts, and exercise.

Through all of your contributions, you have become a valued and trusted partner for MOH. SAMH was recently appointed as the integrated operator of three more eldercare facilities - a nursing home with a co-located senior care centre at Tampines North, and two Active Ageing Hubs at Bedok North and Bedok South.

With these three facilities within the vicinity of St. Andrew’s Community Hospital and its acute hospital partner, Changi General Hospital, SAMH is able to strengthen integrated care across various settings to support residents in the East.

This will enable you to provide holistic care for those in need.

The Government deeply appreciates the Anglican community’s efforts over the decades to serve and care for the community.

You have galvanised those in the community to give back, whether through volunteering their time, or resources.

In this way, you strengthen a sense of mutual care and shared ownership over our future Singapore.

This is precisely why my colleagues and I initiated the Singapore Together movement.

It is also why we set up the Bicentennial Community Fund, which provides dollar-for-dollar matching for donations made to Institutions of Public Character (IPC) such as SACS and SAMH.

Through these, and other programmes, we hope to encourage more Singaporeans to step up, give of their time, ideas and resources, and build our future Singapore together.

I would like to thank the SAMH and SACS again for your tremendous contributions in serving the community and helping to build a caring and cohesive society. And to all staff, thank you for your dedication and hard work in this journey.

I would also like to thank all of you in attendance today for donating generously to this worthy cause.

I wish everyone a pleasant evening.