Updated: 02/28/2013 06:32

Innovations in rehabilitative care can alleviate manpower crunch



Innovations in rehabilitative care can alleviate manpower crunch

by Sara Grosse

The government says the use of technology not only accelerates the rehabilitation process of patients, but also helps ease manpower shortages in healthcare.

The comments were made on the sidelines of the inaugural Rehab Tech Asia exhibition - which features the latest innovations to assist people with disabilities and the elderly.

For those paralysed in their upper body, a robot arm can help them do tasks which many of us take for granted.

Director of Rehabilitation Development with KINOVA, Laurie Piquet with how users react to the robot arm:

"When we demonstrate this to users, often the first comments that we have are, "That's the first time I'm drinking a glass of water by myself."

The innovation from Canada is compatible with any powered wheelchair and can be controlled by a joystick or through neck movements.

Also at the exhibition was a wheelchair which improves mobility by making it easier for users to climb stairs and cross pavements.

Other than technology for patients to use, there are also devices for caregivers. 

"The Body Up" distributed by Lifeline is a transfer assist device for bed-ridden patients.

The contraption can be used to lift a patient who weighs up to 120 kilogrammes.

With a growing demand for special needs care, those in the field of rehabilitation say such a technology can alleviate problems of manpower shortage.

And Senior Consultant of Rehabilitation Medicine at Tan Tock Seng, Dr Kong Keng He, hopes to see such innovations brought to the community:

"It is still very hospital-centric. The patient goes to the hospital to get treatment. I think it will be better off to make it more patient centric. Deploy this treatment, whether it is rehabilitation, back to the community . And it's always possible for community centres, day rehab centres to acquire this equipment and to have this patient to receive their therapy there."

Faced with a rapidly ageing population, Singapore wants to harness such technologies.

Some of them may be costly, but Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor believes the expenses could be offset by productivity gains in the long run:

"Where it is viable and applicable, I think we should adopt them because it's helpful in terms of improving, accelerating the rehabilitation experience as well as in terms of better use of manpower, improving productivity and this is something we need to look at. Where it is still costly, I think technology will develop and we will have to continue to monitor this."

And with the recent enhancements made to the Senior's Mobility and Enabling Fund, Dr Khor says the subsides should encourage the elderly to go for rehabilitation services within the community.

On how the fund will be disbursed to help home care patients, especially those who are not in touch with ILTC providers, Dr Khor says the Agency for Integrated Care will work with the operators to help spread awareness of the fund. On top of this, the agency will also work with the grassroots organisations and CDCs to publicise the fund among needy residents.

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