There’s no doubt that the healthcare sector is a keystone of society, providing all sorts of services ranging from acute care to community care to meet our health and wellness needs.
In recent years, the spotlight on the healthcare sector has intensified, in part due to the pandemic. Processes had to be finetuned, technologies had to be created, and ideas had to be translated into action almost overnight, to keep up with the evolving demands and changing landscape. The constants in this dynamic healthcare system? The people, of course.
At SingHealth, Singapore’s largest public healthcare cluster that comprises acute hospitals, national specialty centres, polyclinics and community hospitals, the professionals have continued to live and breathe their common purpose: Patients. At the heart of all we do.
“We need to address the care process holistically – not just the science of patient care measured by good clinical quality and successful outcomes, but also the art of patient care such as meeting patients’ needs, showing empathy and truly placing patients at the heart of all our work and initiatives,” says Ms Charity Wai, Deputy Group COO (Shared Services), SingHealth; and Chief Operating Officer, Sengkang General Hospital.
Surely, there’s no better time to honour the healthcare workers for faithfully upholding that principle than now.
Here, we highlight how 12 healthcare professionals from SingHealth institutions provide patient-centric care, the far-reaching impact of their work, plus their best health tips.
Ms Karyn Lee began consulting Dr Tan Teck Shi four years ago for the management of her chronic diabetes. Besides prescribing medication and regularly monitoring her blood test results, Dr Tan’s experience and knowledge of her condition gave her the confidence to follow up with him regularly. “I trust Dr Tan as my diabetes has improved drastically,” she says.
Having been a caring family physician for 40 years, Dr Tan works to build long-term relationships with patients, partnering them to achieve positive outcomes. “We need to be sincere to them, yet respect their choices which may not be on the same path as the doctor’s,” he says. Dr Tan is inspired by patients like Ms Lee, who exudes positivity and counts every day a blessing.
Eat half a plate of vegetables and fruit at every meal. Fibre helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and keep diabetes away.
Since the inception of the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) in 1999, Mr Wee Liang Kwee has been a key figure in the Neuroradiology Department, from helping to establish angiogram services to setting up the new Endovascular Centre in 2020. “It is rewarding to have worked on NNI’s interventional neuroradiology services from the start – now more patients can receive treatment without having to undergo major brain surgery,” he says.
One such patient is Ms Angel Chong, who successfully underwent a minimally invasive procedure in 2020 to treat a potentially life-threatening brain aneurysm. “I’m grateful for the work of Mr Wee and other pioneers, as it has led to today’s advances in patient care.”
Lower your risk of stroke by maintaining your blood pressure. In addition, reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day and avoid smoking.
Senior nurse manager Ms Tan Joon Fong first came to care for Mr Tan Poo Koon when he began calling the Singapore National Eye Centre’s Day Ward hotline for help with his diabetic eye condition. “The philosophy I share with my nurses is to care for patients holistically – not just the eye,” says the UK-trained nurse, who helped establish the Day Ward and served as its Deputy Director.
Since then, Mr Tan has learned to regain control of his life through diet and medication, and the pair has formed a strong rapport over conversations and cups of Milo. “Ms Tan is a longtime friend who always encourages me not to miss my checkups and always gives good advice,” he says.
Rest your eyes for five minutes after 30 minutes of screen time. Regular short breaks after reading or using your mobile phone help to prevent digital eye strain.
If you have diabetes, find out how to protect your eyes on healthxchange.sg.
Nurse clinician Jeremy Lim first met Madam Serene Phua in July 2020 when she was transferred to his ward at Sengkang Community Hospital for rehabilitation, following ankle surgery at an acute hospital. “Mdm Phua was very appreciative towards the healthcare team, and often treated us to snacks and drinks. She has also never missed any of her rehab sessions!” says Mr Lim, who spends time educating and encouraging his mostly-elderly patients to participate actively in their recovery.
Mdm Phua says, “I told myself to press on with rehab because I knew about its benefits. The exercises strengthened me and increased my confidence in caring for myself after I was discharged.”
Read up on the latest treatments and/or join online support groups. Equipping yourself with information on your medical condition is the first step to better health.
For easy home improvement tips to help prevent falls, head to healthxchange.sg.
Senior Nurse Manager Ms Fong Poh Chee has dedicated her life to caring for patients in the surgical and rehabilitation wards at Changi General Hospital (CGH) for over 25 years. Her excellence in service and unwavering commitment has been recognised with several awards over the years.
“My wish is to inspire and reassure our patients, that no matter how challenging the Covid-19 situation is, they will be well taken care of as the healthcare team works together with Herculean fortitude and resilience.”
For Mr Haji Abdul Salam, who has been seeking treatment for various sports-related injuries at CGH for over 10 years, the care and guidance offered by CGH’s multi-disciplinary sport and exercise medicine team equips him to manage his injuries well. He remains optimistic and exercises regularly, even going on to win many track and field competitions.
Do regular low-impact brisk walking for better endurance. Staying active will also boost your flexibility and strength.
Get a sports doctor’s advice on how to treat exercise injuries on healthxchange.sg.
A veteran paediatric gastroenterologist with almost five decades of clinical teaching experience, Professor Phua Kong Boo believes that the gentlest tone and touch is key when treating babies and young children. To calm or reassure them, he holds their gaze or distracts them by inflating a glove “balloon”.
Miss Victoria Ho first came under Prof Phua’s care when she was just three months old. The two have formed a close rapport as a result of the personable and fatherly approach which Prof Phua adopts to ensure that his little patients are at ease in his presence. Victoria leaves every visit to his clinic with a big smile.
Look out for abdominal pains or loose stools in your children. These symptoms plus unexpected weight loss may indicate a gastroenterological condition.
For tips to relieve constipation in children, head to healthxchange.sg.
With 20 years of experience guiding patients on their breast cancer journey, Associate Professor Benita Tan takes time to address patients’ concerns and empower them with knowledge to make well-informed decisions. “When patients have a clearer appreciation of their condition, they can fully participate in the decisions for their care journey,’ she says, adding: “I tell my patients that my team and I are here for them and will walk with them in their journey. It is heartwarming to see that some of them have become great friends.”
For Ms Judith Goh, having a trusting relationship with a breast care surgeon helped her mentally prepare for surgery. Post-surgery, she made lifestyle changes and encouraged others to go for mammograms. The stage 3 breast cancer survivor says, “The shock of being diagnosed motivated me to take control of my health and recovery.”
Move and stretch for 30 minutes each day to keep ailments at bay. Focus your energy on doing things you have control over and be proactive about your health.
To find out more about breast cancer screening, visit healthxchange.sg.
Related: Putting a freeze on breast cancer
As the founder of Singapore General Hospital’s Department of Neonatology in 1986, Professor Ho Lai Yun served as its Head for 17 years. His prolific career includes founding the Child Development Unit at KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital and serving as Director of the Ministry of Health’s Child Development Programme.
One of his proudest moments in his career? The landmark separation of the Nepalese conjoined twins in 2001, which put Singapore and SGH on the world map. “The Neonatal care team’s dedication and commitment were remarkable, entailing numerous sleepless nights throughout the twins’ seven-month stay in the intensive care unit after the surgery. The twins returned to Nepal in the best conditions possible after 13 months’ stay in SGH,” he recalls.
Prof Ho is also well known for pioneering many perinatal health and child development programmes for all newborns in Singapore, including Miss Koh Yu Qing, now a bubbly teenager. She is grateful to have benefitted from the programmes as well as to share a frame with Prof Ho in celebrating life.
Keep your baby’s skin hydrated by minimising the use of soap. Bath times should be kept short as newborns’ skin is very delicate and sensitive.
For tips to manage common child medical emergencies, head to healthxchange.sg.
Ms Charity Wai, who has devoted over 30 years of her life to healthcare, helped establish the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) in 1990. She also developed the SingHealth Call Centre Shared Service, managing appointment helplines with 2.5 million calls yearly to ensure patients get the help they need. Ms Wai says, “It’s not just about achieving successful outcomes, but truly placing patients at the heart of everything we do.”
One such patient is Ms Kaweri d/o RM, who underwent successful day surgery for an eye condition. She shares how easy it was to call and make appointments at SNEC. “They were very accommodative and it was a pleasant experience.”
Book screenings for yourself and loved ones at 40, 50 and 60. Screening needs vary by age. Early detection can help nip health problems in the bud.
If you’re a caregiver, find out how to manage your dependent’s SingHealth appointment needs on singhealth.com.sg.
As the “friendly face” of the National Cancer Centre Singapore, Ms Prudence Lim offers patients an empathic listening ear and empowers them to take charge of their health and recovery, such as linking them up with appropriate services like support groups. “Having empathy is essential so patients feel less lonely and know they have our support,” she says.
Mr Jimmy Lee, a stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer survivor, helps run the NPC Support Group where he encourages, counsels and inspires hope in those undergoing cancer treatment. “I want to help them because cancer patients should not walk this path alone.”
Track your body’s reaction when taking new medicines. Take note of any reaction to medications and update your doctor on changes you experience.
Find out about the top foods for cancer patients and what to avoid, on healthxchange.sg.
Besides teaching lab technicians and demonstrating to surgical specialists, Mr Seah Kin Huat’s work involves constructing dental prostheses for patients who need jaw or face reconstruction after traumatic events, or corrective surgery for facial deformities. “Knowing that I can help a patient feel and look better is the most rewarding part of my job.”
He created surgical wafers for Ms Aisyah Bte Mustapah, who had surgery in 2019 to fix a dentofacial deformity caused by a misaligned jaw that affected her self-esteem and ability to chew and speak properly. “I feel more confident now, and am very satisfied with the outcome.”
Consult your dentist if you cannot chew food properly. Corrective surgery on a misaligned jaw may also improve your speech clarity.
Find out more about jaw conditions and surgery on healthxchange.sg.
When the minimally invasive MitraClip procedure was introduced in 2011, Ms Tan Lay Kheng helped establish the post-procedure protocol which allowed for systematic follow-up and monitoring of patients’ progress after the novel procedure.
She says, “As a healthcare provider, I’d always advise patients to follow instructions given by their attending consultant, and to go for regular check-ups. I’d also encourage them to have a healthy and balanced diet and to always look on the bright side of life.”
Ms Tan attended to Mr Tan Kee Seng, who underwent MitraClip surgery in 2020 after battling a weak heart for over two decades. Two weeks after the procedure, he was back on his feet and could resume his evening walks easily without feeling breathless. He is now mindful about maintaining a healthy diet, taking medication on time and keeping track of his medical appointments diligently. “I know that I need to take care of my body and keep it in the best condition possible.”
Maintain a healthy weight with lean protein and fatty fish. Add leafy greens and whole grains for a balanced diet to keep heart diseases at bay.
Learn about the signs of heart valve disease, as well as treatments on healthxchange.sg.
This article was originally published in Her World.