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Encouraging skills-based volunteerism within the medical sector

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the MOU Signing Ceremony Between SG Cares Office and Singapore Medical Association

Dr Tan Yia Swam, President of the Singapore Medical Association,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Council members and students, 

  1. Good morning.
  2. Very happy to join you here today. Dr Ang and I have spoken about this collaboration for some months already. And as some of you know, my relationship with Singapore Medical Association (SMA) goes back quite a long way. When I was in practice, I used to collaborate a lot with SMA.
  3. I think as doctors, you bring a unique value proposition to what we are trying to achieve. As mentioned earlier this year, SG Cares will be setting up SG Cares Volunteer Centres in every single town in Singapore. The unique value proposition that you have is the spirit and ethos of care, fundamentally intertwined with what SG Cares wants to do.
  4. And you can do it because these networks allow us to go right into the heartlands and penetrate beyond the morass of formality. Fundamentally, as a starting point, what does it mean for the beneficiary. When you look at it from that perspective, you can see the value of skills-based volunteerism, whether it is a form of medical assistance or with accountants and lawyers.

    a. Sometimes people talk about lawyers with all sorts of rude remarks, but fundamentally when it comes to looking at how we can help governance, especially in the charity sector, it is tremendous.
  5. SMA’s motto is ‘Service before Self’, fits in with what we want to do.

    a. This last 18 months or so have demonstrated how little gestures by everyone in the community makes a fundamental difference for all of us.

    b. I know SMA members have also been looking beyond just being a doctor and beyond just healing. They ask themselves what else can they do.

    c. You have been instrumental, being at the frontline. But beyond that, you have also been very much involved in the community, helping one another, distributing masks and sanitizers at the early stage. It sounds so straightforward today, but at the start of the crisis, no one understood what this virus was all about. As far as we were concerned, it was perhaps as fatal as SARS.

    d. But yet, many of our frontline healthcare workers were out there in the community, reassuring, helping, and also directly dealing with people, no matter whether they were infected or not.

    e. These are little gestures which we all should remember, which I think fits into our ethos and our fundamental objectives.
  6. What do we think we can do together? There are various things. I think SMA already works with various partners to advocate volunteerism in the medical community. There is a lot of synergy between what you already do and what we hope to achieve.
  7. SMA supports medical students in their educational pursuits, and I think part of that educational pursuit is also the pursuit of community service – what you can do and what you can do to give back.
  8. You also raise funds through the SMA Charity Fund in giving back to society, which also fits with our overall philosophy. With today’s MOU, I believe SG Cares will work even more closely with SMA, not only to equip our healthcare professionals with the skills, experience and opportunities, but in partnering with SG Cares volunteer centres on initiatives like health talks – which we do a lot of in different languages.

    a. Dr Tan herself is very proficient in Hokkien, and having the ability to converse in dialect is important to persuade the heartland uncles and aunties to join. Sometimes, you do need that personal touch.

    b. It's not just about how medically sound you are. But what is the bedside manner, how do you convey your message, and make a connection with the patient. I know all of you could do that well. SMA, with their expertise, can also work with our partners to provide free health screenings.

    c. Health screenings has been the buzzword, you know. When Minister Gan was still Health Minister and I worked with him at MOH, he always said that “we don't want to heal the sick, we want to heal the well”.

    d. And I think health screening plays a really big part in that. This involves befriending as well as conducting home visits, on occasion, to improve the physical and mental well being of residents in the community. This is all the more important, especially in the context of this trying and difficult time.
  9. We are also looking beyond just what actually can be done on the ground. I think this partnership with SG Cares Volunteer Centres has other significance, and I'll highlight a few.

    a. First, I think the whole partnership itself will raise overall awareness that we can actually do something between professional bodies — whether it's doctors, lawyers, accountants – and what we need to do in the community. Often, the two are seen as very separate. I think this gives us a chance to bring that intersection closer and really make a difference between the professionals, and the services in the heartlands.

    b. Second, I believe you will be able to use this as a platform to encourage more skills-based volunteers for the medical professional in partnership with the SG Cares volunteer centres. You have the skill sets, the “heart-ware”, and the ability to go out on the ground, to make sure that the last mile delivery is ensured.

    c. And finally, I think each of you as you volunteer with us, will be imparted that special extra secret sauce – beyond just skill and knowledge, which is that value of care and consideration. Ultimately, all of you have it, and we want some of those values within our SG Cares network system as well.
  10. So, thank you very much to SMA, Dr Tan and your team, all of you. Not only for signing the MOU with us and being here today, but also in being so generous in what you think you can put into this relationship. Not only will SG Cares benefit, that’s just part of it, but ultimately, our beneficiaries. The everyday people. People in the heartlands. People who come from all strata, all walks of society, all different kinds of backgrounds will benefit from it.
  11. So thank you very much. I would like to echo Dr Ang that this has been some time in the making but we are very glad to be able to do it this morning.
  12. Thank you. Have a good day and good weekend ahead.


Last updated on 27 August 2021