JB nursing homes – MOH clarifies

For those who missed it, this is the full statement from the Ministry of Health on Mr Khaw Boon Wan’s remarks about nursing homes in Johor Baru:

From feedback received and online discussion, it is apparent that there is much misunderstanding on Minister Khaw’s comments on nursing homes in JB. Some expressed objection to using the nursing homes in JB for their elderly. They felt that this would tantamount to abandoning the elderly overseas. We commend their spirit. Indeed, we would like to state categorically that nobody is advocating that the elderly be abandoned, here or overseas. Minister’s comments arose from the requests by many Singaporeans to use their Medisave for overseas hospital care where competent care is available at lower cost. Unfortunately, his comments have been twisted out of context. (MOH clarifies:It is a matter of options and affordability (The New Paper, 18 Feb)

Minister Khaw was only sharing an observation about the different cost structures in JB and Singapore, and in fact this option is something that those who want to stretch their budget are already doing. On why nursing homes cost more in Singapore than JB, it is a case of market realities arising from different stages of economic development. This is not a failure of Singapore’s healthcare system, but a reality that our cost of living here is higher. Our doctors and nurses are paid more their counterparts there; likewise the cost of land and construction.(MOH clarifies:Why nursing homes cost more to build and run in Singapore (The Straits Times, 20 Feb)However, we are certainly continuing with our efforts in building more nursing homes that are in the heartlands and close to the community. (MOH clarifies: More nursing homes in housing estates (My Paper, 3 Mar)

We certainly encourage families to strive to help their elderly age-in-place, i.e. at home. The vast majority of Singaporeans do, and we commend and applaud their strong family bonds. The fact is that not all patients can be cared for adequately at home, while this may be the top wish of the patients and their families. Sometimes, they do need to be admitted to a hospital, if conditions are severe, or to a nursing home, if the conditions are less serious. They are not “homes for the aged” where the elderly has been abandoned by their children, with no family to return to. Many commentators may have mixed up nursing homes with homes for the aged. Ultimately, whether the patients should be cared for at home, at nursing home in Singapore, or at nursing home overseas, are decisions for the family to decide. (MOH clarfies:Strong families ties and values in care for the elderly. (ZB’s english translation, 23 Feb )

For the low income group, they do not have to worry as Government subsidy ensures that nursing homes here will be affordable. Each year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) provides about $110 million in operating subsidies for the Intermediate and Long-term Care (ILTC) services, which include nursing homes. Needy families will get the subsidies they need, and even from Medifund.For those who can afford unsubsidised nursing home care, keeping the borders open provide them with options. This is the context in which Minister Khaw made his comment.

In fact, some readers shared the view that the availability of lower nursing homes in JB gives many Singaporeans more options. One such reader is Mr. Dennis Teo who wrote a letter to The New Paper “For some, JB homes could mean better care” (20 Feb).

You can also view the context of Minister’s comments in Parliament in a video clip.


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