Opening Address at Opening Ceremony of SATA CommHealth Medical Centres for Migrant Workers
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Kranji Recreation Centre
Mr Stanley Sia, Chairman of SATA CommHealth,
Dr Edward Yang, Vice Chairman of SATA CommHeath,
Dr Kelvin Phua, Chief Executive Officer of SATA CommHealth,
Friends from NGOs, Health Partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
1. Good morning, everyone. I am glad to join you at the opening ceremony of the SATA CommHealth’s Medical Centres for Migrant Workers today. This has been something we have all been working very hard towards. We must continue to work together to ensure the ecosystem continues to grow strong and deliver on its mission. It is a pleasure to see familiar faces of our partners and healthcare staff, who play very important roles in caring for our migrant workers on a daily basis. All of you have been in the trenches with us in the last three years as we battled COVID-19. Hopefully today, that is something behind us, and now we look forward to a new phase of delivering healthcare to all migrant workers.
2. We are here at Kranji Recreation Centre, which hosts one of five medical centres operated by SATA CommHealth. These medical centres form an integral part of the Ministry of Manpower’s primary healthcare system, which was set up progressively since 2022 to provide care for our migrant workers in Singapore. You will realise that this is a unique feature in Singapore’s healthcare system. We are one of the very few countries in the world that has dedicated an entire healthcare ecosystem to look after the well-being of our workers. Over 200,000 migrant workers can access quality and affordable healthcare services at these medical centres operated by SATA CommHealth. We are thankful for strong partners like SATA CommHealth for taking this up. These services include medical consultations, vaccinations and medication dispensing. Primary healthcare for our migrant workers is also kept affordable through the Primary Care Plan (PCP). The PCP is a capitation model that helps to keep costs manageable for employers but ensures that quality care is delivered to our workers.
3. Presently, we have ten medical centres, including four located within large dormitories across Singapore to serve our migrant workers’ primary healthcare needs. Telemedicine is also available for them to conveniently seek medical consultations via the FWMOMCare application on their mobile phones. These are significant steps that the Ministry of Manpower has taken with our partners to strengthen the ecosystem of support for our migrant workers’ healthcare needs. Many of these lessons were learned during our fight against COVID-19, and we made sure that these infrastructures and technologies can be used in peacetime and the next crisis. I want to thank our anchor operators, community partners and healthcare staff for your service and dedication, and coming together as a community to support our migrant workers. In Singapore, we leave no one behind. Every worker matters to us.
Ensuring Culturally Attuned Healthcare
4. Designing a robust healthcare system starts with understanding our patients and putting their needs at the center of all that we do. One key area of focus is to ensure that our migrant workers receive culturally attuned care. What does that mean to be culturally attuned? Students who are going into medical school learn the importance of understanding a patient’s culture to effect behavioral change. This is because health seeking behaviors are very much influenced by the culture that they come from, the background they come from, as well as the society that they grew up in. Therefore, we need to ensure our migrant workers are able to communicate their needs clearly to the doctors and nurses, so that they can better administer the appropriate care and treatment to their patients.
5. Let me share three ways in which we are delivering culturally attuned care.
6. First, we have enabled our anchor operators to augment their healthcare teams with healthcare workers who can engage our migrant workers in their native languages, while supporting the treating doctor and healthcare teams in providing healthcare services. These healthcare workers are able to explain migrant workers’ condition to the treating doctors, and convey the doctor’s diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures in a way that is easily understood by the workers themselves. This builds familiarity between migrant workers and their healthcare team, and helps them follow the treatment plan and advice on lifestyle changes. Today, there are 10 such healthcare workers at SATA CommHealth’s medical centres, and Ms Han Miemie Thet is one of them. Ms. Han plays a crucial role in assisting the treating doctor in managing migrant workers’ medical conditions. During one of Ms Han’s shifts at the centre, a Burmese migrant worker complained about body pain and numbness. Ms Han stepped in to engage him, who was not fluent in English, and conveyed his symptoms and medical history to the treating doctor. She learned that his symptoms occurred as possible complication of diabetes. She also gathered a complete picture of his diabetic history and the medication he was taking, which enabled the treating doctor to work out an appropriate treatment plan for him. This is quite different from just interpreting the language spoken by the patient, as you need to read beyond the patient’s words to contextualise what it means. This enables the doctor to identify what the underlying problem is.
7. We are also partnering with the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore to develop customised training programmes to upskill these healthcare workers, so that they can assist in other care roles such as managing medications, including medications prescribed by the treating doctor. The healthcare workers will also assist in addressing queries such as the duration of treatment and potential side effects.
8. Second, besides interpersonal interactions, we adopt a multi-channel and multilingual approach to deliver good care to our migrant workers and raise their health literacy. We empower them. For example, the educational materials in this centre are translated in our migrant workers’ native languages, from medication charts to educational booklets and brochures, and even signages at key touchpoints. This provides migrant workers with a welcoming environment and an improved experience from the moment they step into the medical centres. They will not feel like everything is foreign to them. It makes them feel more comfortable in seeking care, and opening up in the conversations they have with the treating doctors. Health education materials are also accessible at their fingertips through a one-stop Health Library. Our migrant workers can pick up practical tips to improve their health, whether it is managing their chronic diseases, protecting themselves against infectious diseases, or strengthening their mental and oral health.
9. Lastly, we continue to build strong networks within the migrant worker community for care to be connected to migrant workers who are in need. Our anchor operators and Non-Governmental Organisations are important partners as we continually strengthen our ecosystem of healthcare support. It is equally important to tap on our migrant workers themselves to identify, intervene and connect care to the broader community. Sometimes, a fellow worker in distress may either be unwilling or unable to navigate the system. Having people whom our migrant workers are familiar with to help them navigate the system and connect with care is one way we can make sure no one is left without the care that they need. This is why we have established a network of over 800 migrant worker Peer Support Leaders, who are trained in basic psychological first aid. They identify, support, and connect distressed migrant workers to counselors and other support resources. Besides the Peer Support Leader network, about 2,300 Friends of ACE volunteers also serve as a bridge between the Ministry of Manpower and our migrant workers. For example, these volunteers help to explain information to fellow migrant workers in their native languages at health roadshows and other events, as well as raise feedback from their peers to the Ministry.
10. My heartiest congratulations once again to SATA CommHealth on the launch of its medical centres! SATA CommHealth supported us in our fight against COVID-19, such as setting up on-site medical outposts and administering vaccinations. Today, they are actively involved in healthcare and educational outreach among the migrant worker community.
11. As Dr Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much." Let us continue to work together as one community, passionate about the health of our migrant workers, to ensure that our migrant workers receive the care and support they need. Thank you!