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685,000 received S$169m in Chas subsidies last year

SINGAPORE — The Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) has scaled up its network, with about 1,650 general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics participating islandwide, compared with about 1,500 Chas clinics a year ago.

In the East Coast and Fengshan constituencies, for example, there are close to 100 such clinics, while 97 per cent of all Chas and Pioneer Generation cardholders have access to more than one Chas clinic within a kilometre of their homes.

Giving an update at the Chas family carnival at Bedok Town Square yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said about 1.3 million Singaporeans are now benefiting from Chas, compared with 34,000 when the scheme began in 2012. Last year, 685,000 Singaporeans received a total of S$169 million in Chas subsidies, S$2 million more than in 2015.

Under Chas, which the Agency for Integrated Care administers, lower- to middle-income Singaporeans and pioneers can receive healthcare subsidies from participating clinics.

Among the beneficiaries is Bedok South resident Lee Yee Theng, 43, who sensed something amiss when she started having severe headaches on and off. Knowing her family’s history of high blood pressure, she consulted her family doctor, Michael Wong, from Raffles Medical Clinic at Siglap Centre, who joined Chas in 2012.

After monitoring her condition for a month, the clinic found that she did suffer from high blood pressure.

Another beneficiary was Punggol resident Alvin Poh, 40, who discovered he had diabetes after doing a blood test on his first visit to Zenith Medical Clinic when he moved to the area about two years ago. He regards his doctor, Paul Ang, more as a friend than only a family doctor, as Dr Ang goes the extra mile to encourage him to exercise more, on top of sharing medical advice and information.

“It’s more accessible, knowing that (Chas clinics) are in the heartlands, and you also get subsidised,” said Mr Poh, who gets up to S$480 annually in subsidies for his various medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Dr Ang said the scheme has allowed doctors to screen more patients and detect chronic conditions earlier. Hence, they can treat patients more effectively, rather than having to refer them elsewhere for treatment.

While this can “reduce the load of hospitals and polyclinics”, he hopes that going forward, there could also be greater collaboration among the various health institutes.

Agreeing, Dr Wong said: “It has brought care closer to home, since patients are now able to consult a family doctor they are comfortable with and closest (to their homes), but with less financial (burden). Family physicians like myself are better able to offer care to patients.”

The Health Ministry is now scaling up efforts to help GPs re-organise into Primary Care Networks, so that they are better equipped to provide chronic care, with the Government to provide funding support for nursing services and other resources, said Mr Gan.

He noted that Chas had earlier been enhanced by increasing the number of chronic conditions to 19, including epilepsy, psoriasis and osteoporosis.

Soon, Chas cardholders and other eligible Singaporeans will need to pay only S$2 and S$5 respectively for health screening under the Health Promotion Board’s Screen-for-Life Programme, which will be enhanced from Sept 1. This will be free for pioneers.

Previously, the HPB said it would send out letters from August to invite them to schedule a visit with any Chas GP clinic to screen for diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and cervical and colorectal cancers.

Mr Gan reiterated that while the Government would continue to work with its primary care partners to ensure accessible, affordable and quality healthcare, the onus was on individuals as well to adopt a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits, regular exercise and regular screenings.

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