• Event brings together more than 200 medical social workers from public healthcare, and intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) facilities.
• Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong honoured for his contributions to laying a strong foundation for healthcare financing 

Some 200 medical social work pioneers and practitioners from public healthcare institutions and intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) facilities gathered today to celebrate 70 years of medical social services in Singapore. They were joined by Guest-of-Honour, Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong, and Senior Minister of State for Health, Mr Edwin Tong.

Medical social services were first introduced in Singapore in 1949 with the establishment of an Almoner’s Department at Singapore General Hospital (formerly known as Outram Road General Hospital). The Almoners were the forerunners of today’s medical social workers (MSWs). They presided over the administration of charitable funds to ensure fair distribution of financial aid to needy patients and their dependents. Since then, the profession has evolved to respond to the nation’s rapidly changing medical and social needs. (Refer to Annex A for the milestones of medical social services in Singapore through the ages)

As key members of multi-disciplinary healthcare teams, the role of medical social workers has gone beyond assisting patients with financial difficulties. They work closely with the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and community partners to ensure that the emotional, psychological, social and care needs of patients and their caregivers are taken care of through various interventions such as family education, mediation, and counselling. They also assist patients in making a smooth transition from the hospital back to the community and link them to the community resources available. Currently, there are more than 600 medical social workers practicing in Singapore in public hospitals, national specialty centres, polyclinics, community hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.

Tribute to ESM Goh 

At the celebratory event, ESM Goh Chok Tong was honoured for his contributions to healthcare financing in Singapore during his tenure as Health Minister (1981 to 1985) and later as Prime Minister (1990 to 2004). The financing system, namely MediSave, MediShield and MediFund—commonly referred to as the 3Ms—laid a strong foundation for Singapore citizens’ access to healthcare.  Set up to help lower-income Singaporeans, MediFund, serves as a safety net for needy patients who face financial difficulties with their remaining medical bills after receiving government subsidies and drawing on other means of payments, including MediShield Life, MediSave and cash. 

When it was set up in 1993, MSWs were instrumental in implementing the fund and it shaped the role that MSWs now play in patient care. Since its launch, MSWs assist the MediFund Committees of their respective institutions to assess patients’ financial and social circumstances holistically, so that the Committees can make informed decisions on the appropriate level of MediFund assistance that should be given.  

Honouring Medical Social Work Veterans 

For their contributions in the last 50 years to advance the profession, two medical social work veterans Mr Peter Lee, Master Medical Social Worker, SGH and Mrs Saro Palakrishnan, Consultant, Community Care, The National Kidney Foundation, were honoured at the event.