SINGAPORE: Former chief executive officer of IHH Healthcare Dr Tan See Leng, tipped as a candidate for the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the upcoming general election, will soon launch a new Caregiver Support Network in Marine Parade.

Dr Tan started shadowing Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in the Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency (GRC) shortly after retiring from his position at the healthcare group at the end of last year. 

On Sunday (Mar 22), Mr Goh posted a photo with Dr Tan, deputy chief executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore Mohd Fahmi Aliman, Mountbatten Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Biow Chuan and MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling.

“My dream team for West Coast GRC or anywhere,” he wrote, hinting at the possibility of Dr Tan and Mr Fahmi being fielded as candidates. 

“Very early on when he (Mr Goh) was posed the question whether I could be a potential candidate, he did say that you know, depending on how this caregiver support network or my work at the Marine Parade grassroots stands out, it’ll be a test whether I’m good enough,” Dr Tan told CNA on Monday (Mar 23). 

“I suppose by him posting (on Facebook) … I do not know, and that’s something you’ve got to ask him. Maybe he may think that I passed the test,” he said  

If eventually fielded, the 55 year-old will likely stand out among a traditionally younger slate of new candidates. 

Dr Tan stepped down as managing director and chief executive officer of IHH Healthcare on Dec 31, 2019, after his contract ended. He took up the appointment in January 2014. The healthcare group is listed in Singapore and Malaysia, and is among the world’s largest. 

Its subsidiary, Parkway Pantai, has a network of 28 hospitals in Asia, including Mount Elizabeth Hospital,  Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital and Parkway East Hospital in Singapore. 

Prior to his activities in Marine Parade, he had “some limited experience” in helping in the grassroots. He was first involved in grassroots activities in the early 1990s, when he was a general practitioner in Kembangan, he said. 

Serving under former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo in Kembangan, he was chairman of the Jalan Senang neighbourhood committee for a short period of time, he added. 

Mr Goh reached out to him after the news of his retirement emerged, said Dr Tan in an earlier conversation with CNA, adding that Mr Goh’s son is a former colleague. 

“I guess when he heard about my retirement, ESM Goh reached out and said ‘Why don’t you help me since you’re prepared to volunteer?’ And of course, I willingly agreed,” he said. 

Mr Goh announced in January that he had tasked Dr Tan to launch a Caregiver Support Network, as a patron of the WeCare Community Enabling Network in Marine Parade.

The network aims to serve as “a conduit” that can facilitate help for caregivers of the sick and elderly, Dr Tan told CNA, adding that Marine Parade has many elderly residents, and thus associated health problems like Parkinson’s disease, dementia and stroke. 

“Many of these instances are when you’re faced with the prospect of your loved one suddenly having a stroke or going into dementia or having a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, many of them in the beginning, they don’t know what to do,” he said, adding that many people become caregivers overnight when a family member falls ill. 

“Obviously we’re not going to replace any government agency, but at least we provide a conduit, a facilitation kind of network where we can actually direct them as to where to go.”

Many caregivers also suffer from emotional and physical burnout, noted Dr Tan, and the network also aims to refine ways to “offer some kind of respite” so they can recover. 

Training of caregivers and supporting caregivers who may not be available all the time because they have full-time or part-time jobs are also part of the scope, he added. 

The proposal for the Caregiver Support Network has been finalised, Dr Tan said. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the team is looking for ways to safely engage with residents to gather one last round of suggestions before it is officially launched. 

“We have actually finalised and completed the coordination in terms of getting many of the agencies to help us and support this,” said Dr Tan, adding that the network will be working with Montfort Care, the South East Community Development Council and the Agency for Integrated Care. 

It has also approached St Luke’s ElderCare, as well as SingHealth Group, because there is a polyclinic in Marine Parade GRC, he noted. 

“We wanted to have a couple of dialogues with some of the residents, but given these social distancing measures which are rightfully what is needed today, we’re just contemplating how best to reach out to them,” said Dr Tan. 

“The best intent would not very good if your articulation and the delivery of the intent and the initiatives behind it is not done properly… This is the first time we’re launching something like this in Marine Parade, we just want to make sure that we get it right.” 

Noting that this is just the first phase of the launch, Dr Tan said that in time to come, the plan is to reach out to private healthcare groups like Parkway East Hospital and private general practitioner groups. 

“We do have ambitious end goals, but a giant leap always begins with a first small step… We will always be a work in progress.”

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