Geriatric Medicine in the “little red dot”

Dr Liang Tee Lee is President of the Society for Geriatric Medicine, Singapore and a Consultant of Continuing & Community Care in Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Clinical Director at Ren Ci Hospital.shutterstock_183186191

Singapore is a city state country in South-east Asia, often marked by a little red dot south of Malaysia on the world map. It spans 716 square kilometres and has around 5.4 million people. Singapore is one of the fastest ageing countries in the world, with the population of 65 years and older projected to increase from 10.5% now to 18% in year 2030.

In Singapore, Geriatric Medicine was born 26 years ago when Dr Francis Joseph Jayaratnam started the first Geriatric Medicine department in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The department went on to train generations of geriatricians. Currently, there are 78 registered geriatricians in Singapore.

In the early 90s, Singapore started the Advance Specialist Training programme for Geriatric Medicine. It was changed to a senior residency programme in 2013. Currently, we have 13 trainees undergoing training.

To meet the ever increasing need for high quality care for older people, the National University of Singapore in collaboration with the Society for Geriatric Medicine, Singapore started the Graduate Diploma in Geriatric Medicine to train Primary Care physicians in Geriatric assessment and approach. Since its inception in 1997, more than 200 of them had gone through the course. Many of them are providing services in nursing homes and community hospitals.

The healthcare system in Singapore is undergoing a dramatic overhaul, primarily to cope with the silver Tsunami that is already at our shore, and bracing ourselves for the challenges ahead. We have been studying the various models of care from other countries, and adapting them into our system, innovating and adjusting here and there to suit our culture and funding system. We are reaching out to other countries, especially in the pacific region, to collaborate and brainstorm, and to unite as one to fight this worldwide problem.

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