Palliative Care Fellowships and Scholarships
IS THERE A SHORTAGE OF DOCTORS FOR TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS HERE?
Currently, twenty-two doctors, predominantly foreigners, are tending to 3,700 terminally ill patients through 35,000 visits. This works out to a ratio of 1:168. Between April 2004 and March 2005, eight doctors struggled to share the load of looking after those patients.
This is the less-than-jubilant reality of the hospice sector's doctor-patient ratio in Singapore. And Singapore’s demographic trend is toward an older population, thanks to greater longevity.
WHY DO WE NOT HAVE ENOUGH PALLIATIVE DOCTORS?
Dr Cynthia Goh, Head of Palliative Medicine at the National Cancer Centre of Singapore, shed some light on the subject in a TODAY article: “Whilst there are doctors who have expressed interest in this field of practice, they face huge obstacles ranging from lack of recognition to limited local accreditation. Doctors who wish to specialise in palliative care have to enrol in overseas courses, as there aren't any available in Singapore.”
Alluding to the nation’s greying populace, Dr Goh estimates that 65 per cent will soon require palliative care, up from 20 per cent.
HOW CAN WE REDRESS THIS?
In April 2006, we partnered with the Singapore Hospice Council to launch the first-ever palliative care scholarships and fellowships in Singapore.
In a S$2 million effort, part of which goes towards a campaign to increase public awareness on hospice palliative care and end-of-life issues, we funded scholarships and fellowships that will help to train 10 local doctors, 20 local nurses, and 20 doctors from Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region over a period of five years.