Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan had suggested that elderly Singaporeans might want to consider staying at nursing homes across the Causeway in Johor, Malaysia where it is much cheaper.
It cannot be denied what he had said makes sense in light of the fact that healthcare in Singapore is expensive and costs are likely to increase in the future and also that healthcare is cheaper in our neighbouring countries.
However, if you look at the issue in another way, it is heartbreaking to see that the people who have toiled and shed blood, tears, and sweat to build Singapore, from a swampy jungle to a bustling city today, have difficulty getting elderly healthcare in their very own country in their golden years.
It simply boggles the mind to think that we are able to set aside huge amounts of money for events such as the Youth Olympics, Integrated Resort, and the F1 Race and also come up with the manpower and expertise to conceptualise, plan, and execute these projects but yet we have difficulty finding a solution that allows our elderly to be cared for here?
Mr Khaw said that the suggestion was aimed at middle-income families who need to pay for the care themselves and that for most Singaporeans, visiting a relative in a Johor Baru nursing home would not pose significant difficulties. It gives them choice, he said.
However, what kind of a choice is this when for instance the middle-income class, who are already sandwiched between providing for their children and elderly parents, cannot afford nursing homes in Singapore but yet require the services of one?
They do not have much of a choice here as it has effectively already been made for them. It is either one spouse quits his/her job to take care of the parents (not likely due to high household expenses), or do without the services of a nursing home (not likely as they need to work and the elderly need care). Hence, the only solution here are cheaper nursing homes.
This said, given a choice, who wants to travel to Johor every weekend to the nursing home? You have to brave the long drive as well as the long traffic jams at the Causeway, both to and from Johor, week after week.
Have we really exhausted all the possible avenues of caring for our elderly in Singapore? I do not think so. With our strong Singapore work ethic, resourcefulness, and reserves, there is nothing we cannot do if we put our mind to it.