Affordable nursing homes, more Singaporean workers?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) reply “Increased subsidies help offset fee hikes: MOH” (Straits Times, Sep 4) to Edwin Lim’s letter “Homes shouldn’t undermine levy” (ST, Aug 30), and the report “'Streamline subsidies’ for patients” (Channel NewsAsia, Sep 3). 


Increase subsidy, but fees increase to any amount?

The former states that

“Whilst nursing home providers have the autonomy to set their fees, responsible providers do consider the impact of higher charges on patients and families.

Some fee increases may be unavoidable, as the operating costs have risen over the years”.

What this means is that nursing homes can increase their fees to whatever amount they like.


Passing the buck to VWOs?

As to

“The MOH has increased subsidises for nursing home care and absorbed the goods and services tax for subsidised patients from July to ensure that nuring home care remains affordable”

With the maximum subsidy of 80 per cent for the lowest income patients, what this means is that one has still to pay the balance 20 per cent of whatever the newly increased fees are, unless the Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO) nursing home is able get sufficient donations.


How many pay less, pay more?

With regard to

“In fact, most subsidised patients in these homes will see either no change, or even a decrease in out-of-pocket payment”

What is “most subsidised patients”?   – 51, 60, 75 per cent of the total number of subsidised patients?


What about non-subsidised patients?

How many non-subsidised to subsidised patients in total?

How much more do they have to pay?


Do much more to achieve what?

In respect of

“The foreign worker levy changes reflect a larger national effort to reduce our dependence on foreign workers and raise productivity, MOH works closely with the nursing homes to enhance their productivity and efficiency, and attract locals into the sector.

In March, MOH outlined plans to invest $21 million over the next five years to support continuing and advanced skills training in the intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) sector.

We will also invest up to $96 million to fund ILTC providers’ productivity initiatives, including job redesign to create jobs suitable for housewives and retirees to take up on a part-time basis”

It may be akin to saying we will do this and that, and spend more, but without any mention of any benchmarks to measure how successful we are in achieving what?

For example, what percentage of the workers now are Singaporeans?

What is the percentage increase that we are trying to target?


Will pay go up too?

What are the current salaries of the workers?

In this connection, some workers were actually paid between $850 to $1,350, and worked for a total of 55 hours without being paid any overtime (“Nursing home guilty of licensing violations”, Straits Times, Sep 4).

If full-time workers are being paid $850 to $1,350, how much will housewives and retirees working part-time get?

Unless we look towards increasing the low-pay of the workers, most of the MOH’s measures may not be of much help to Singaporean workers.