Subsidies for haze-related conditions kick in

Re-activated on Wednesday, the subsidies are part of a Government scheme first launched in 2013 to provide affordable healthcare for needy Singaporeans during the haze season then.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 16 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: From Wednesday (Sep 16), eligible Singaporeans can enjoy subsidies when they see a doctor for haze-related conditions.

It is part of a Government scheme which was first launched in 2013 to provide affordable healthcare for needy Singaporeans during the haze season then. The scheme has now been re-activated due to the worsening haze situation.

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 10 patients have already enjoyed the subsidies at Medlife Clinic & Surgery.

"Some patients knew about the scheme already but some still did not know about this scheme, so ... the staff informed the patients about this Haze Subsidy Scheme, that they can use it, especially those needy patients or patients who are eligible," said Dr Joel Foo, a family physician at the clinic.

The clinic has put up print-outs with information on the scheme and will also put up posters.

Patients can receive the subsidies at all polyclinics, as well as clinics under the Public Health Preparedness Clinics scheme, which aims to help patients get treatment even in times of emergency. Clinic staff also undergo training and will receive support from the Ministry of Health during such public health emergencies, including supplies such as medication and vaccines.

Conditions covered include asthma, bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections. Public Assistance cardholders are also fully subsidised and do not have to pay. Pioneers will pay no more than S$5, while other eligible Singaporeans will pay no more than S$10. The Ministry of Health will subsidise the remaining costs.

Those eligible include children and youths aged 18 and below, as well as seniors aged 65 and above. Also eligible are those earning a monthly income of $1,800 and below, based on self-declaration using an official form.

The scheme will also benefit Singaporeans on Government schemes such as the Community Health Assist Scheme.


Many have welcomed the news. Ms Nancy Loh, a retiree, said it "helps to cut down on our medical costs".

"In a family, because of the haze, some of them may fall sick, which also involves a lot of money," she said.

Ms Rachel Ng, a medical representative, noted: "Most grandparents are very thrifty, they don't really want to spend a lot of money. So if they know that it's just S$5, they will - if let's say it's just a slight irritation in their eye - just go down to the nearest GP and get it treated."

Danish Ashraff, a student, commented: "If I get affected by the haze, I can go down to the doctor alone without my parents and can pay with my own pocket money."

While Ms Fioe Chia, a sales manager in the medical industry, said: "I have three young children. So with this haze subsidy, I definitely will not procrastinate, I will take them immediately (to the doctor) if they do come down with any illness."

For more information on the scheme, the public can visit the Health Ministry's website.

- CNA/ek

Haze management plans in place during national exams: MOE
All schools have enclosed spaces for candidates to take their papers in and air purifiers will also be provided so that the examinations will not need to be disrupted, should haze conditions worsen drastically says the Education Ministry.
Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 16 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: With the GCE 'N' levels ongoing and GCE 'O' levels coming up later this month, the Ministry of Education said schools are prepared in terms of dealing with the haze.

In response to media queries, MOE on Wednesday (Sep 16) said the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB)'s haze management measures for national examinations are aligned with MOE's plans for schools, and that schools have already been briefed.

"For national examinations, all schools have enclosed spaces for all candidates to take their papers in. Air purifiers will also be provided so that the examinations will not need to be disrupted, should haze conditions worsen drastically during the period of the examination," said a spokesperson for MOE.

The Education Ministry added that there are already processes in place for candidates who are ill during the national examinations. The same procedure will be activated for students who are unable to take examinations due to haze-related illnesses, MOE said.

MOE said should it announce school closure for all primary and secondary schools - if the forecast air quality for the next day indicates that it would be at a Hazardous level (above 300 in the Pollutants Standard Index) - national examinations, including written papers, oral and listening comprehension examinations, will be rescheduled and examination periods possibly extended.

The announcement on rescheduling of examinations would be made together with any announcement by MOE on school closures. School candidates will be informed through their schools, while private candidates will be informed by SEAB, MOE said.

It added: "The well-being of all students is our key priority. Every primary and secondary school has in place a set of haze management plans and is ready to take the appropriate management measures as required As part of MOE’s haze management measures, all schools are already equipped with air purifiers and sufficient enclosed spaces to cater to all students."

- CNA/dl

Haze supplies: 30,000 households to get WeCare PAcks, 29,000 masks for needy elderly
Launching the initiatives, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong guided senior citizens in Teck Ghee on the correct way to wear the masks.
Xabryna Kek and Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 16 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE: As air quality in Singapore continues to deteriorate, 30,000 vulnerable households in all will receive haze packages containing items like eyedrops and canned food.

The initiative, spearheaded by the People’s Association, was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Sep 16) who distributed the packs to elderly residents in Teck Ghee.

WeCare PAcks, as they are called, contain food and essential items like eyedrops, vitamin C tablets, biscuits, instant noodles and canned food.

The campaign was first launched in 2013 after the haze reached hazardous levels in Singapore. “Based on our last experience in 2013, elderly residents who live alone, or needy residents with respiratory conditions found it difficult to go out to buy essential items during haze. We have to help them out,” said Ms Noelene De Foe, chairperson of Teck Ghee Community Centre Management Committee.

The items were donated by local businesses and the FairPrice Foundation, which will be donating about S$500,000 worth of food and items thorough this initiative, according to FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng.

Prime Minister Lee also kicked off distribution of AIR+ Smart Masks to 29,000 elderly residents, aged 60 and above living in rental flats. The mask can be attached to a microventilator that will be available at 60 senior activity centres islandwide. All this is courtesy of a S$300,000 initiative by Temasek Cares and ST Engineering.

Mr Lee gave out masks to 100 seniors living in Ang Mo Kio at the COMNET@ Teck Ghee Senior Activity Centre and even showed the residents how to put the masks on properly.

Said Chairman of Temasek Cares, Richard Magnus: "The impact of the haze is unhealthy and we don't want our senior citizens to be impacted by the haze so much so that they don't do everyday things, daily things and especially missing out their medical appointments."

This initiative is part of the Temasek Cares "Stay Prepared" initiative to enhance the readiness of the Singapore community to cope with emergencies.

The People's Association will also be designating some air-conditioned areas in CCs and RCs as haze shelters. This will be done whenever the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings hit 151 and above for a prolonged period.

The shelters' opening hours correspond to the operating hours of the CCs and RCs. PA says hours will be extended if the haze reaches the Hazardous stage, above 300 in PSI.

- CNA/xk

Face masks, supplies given to the vulnerable to cope with haze
Distribution expected to be completed within a week, with most vulnerable households receiving them by this weekend
AMANDA LEE Today Online 17 Sep 15;

SINGAPORE — The distribution of 30,000 WeCare packs to help the vulnerable prepare for the haze began in earnest today (Sept 16) with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong kicking things off in his Teck Ghee ward.

An initiative by the People’s Association (PA), the WeCare pack comprises an N95 mask and other food and medical supplies, such as instant noodles, biscuits, instant beverages, canned food, Vitamin C tablets and eyedrops. The distribution is expected to be completed within a week, with the majority of vulnerable households receiving them by this weekend, said PA chief executive director Ang Hak Seng today. These vulnerable households include elderly who live alone, immobile residents and seniors with medical conditions.

Aside from the WeCare packs, Temasek Cares and ST Engineering are handing out 87,000 AIR+ Smart Masks — created by an ST Engineering subsidiary — to vulnerable elderly to protect them from the haze.

Under the S$300,000 initiative, a total of 29,000 elderly who are at least 60 years old and are living in an HDB rental flat will be eligible to receive a set of three AIR+ Smart Masks each.

A total of 110 WeCare packs were distributed today at Comnet @ Teck Ghee Senior Activity Centre in Ang Mo Kio, with PM Lee, who is Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, helping some of the elderly try the N95 masks on. He also visited two households personally to distribute the WeCare packs.

Sixty-year-old Mr Abbas Zainal, who lives with his younger sister, was one of those who received the pack from PM Lee. Saying he was thankful for the gesture, Mr Abbas added that he wears a mask whenever he heads out of his house to protect himself from the haze.

The AIR+ Smart Masks, meanwhile, will also be given out to 60 senior activity centres islandwide by this weekend. Aside from the masks, which are locally designed and come in sizes also suitable for children, Temasek Cares and ST Engineering are also giving out 6,000 Micro Ventilators. These detachable and rechargeable devices can be attached to the mask to help aid breathing. They will be available for loan from the senior activity centres.

Mr Richard Magnus, the chairman of Temasek Cares, which is the philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings, said these masks and ventilators will help the seniors citizens who are “especially vulnerable” as the haze is at unhealthy levels.

ST Engineering deputy CEO (Corporate Development) Vincent Chong said: “In designing the AIR+ Smart Mask, we focused our efforts on a new generation mask that provides better seal protection for all ages (while improving) breathing comfort.”

Help for households, seniors to cope with haze
Audrey Tan, Priscilla Goy, Seow Bei Yi, Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Sep 15;

Nearly 60,000 households and senior citizens will get equipment to cope with the haze, as air quality remained in the unhealthy range for most of yesterday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong kicked off two nationwide distribution exercises that will provide items such as N95 masks and eyedrops to those who need them to combat the haze.

First, he distributed special N95 masks to about 100 seniors at a senior activity centre in Ang Mo Kio, as part of a $300,000 initiative by Temasek Cares - the non-profit, philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings - and home-grown engineering firm ST Engineering.

The AIR+ Smart Masks are N95 masks that come in three sizes, designed by ST Engineering subsidiary Innosparks.

They can also be fitted with a detachable and rechargeable ventilator that improves air flow through the mask and makes them more comfortable.

About 29,000 masks and 6,000 micro ventilators will be distributed to the 60 senior activity centres across Singapore by the weekend.

Mr Lee also launched the distribution of the People's Association (PA) WeCare PAcks, which will go to 30,000 vulnerable households, mainly seniors and residents with medical conditions who live alone.

Each pack comes with items, such as N95 masks and instant noodles, donated by FairPrice Foundation and the local business community.

PA chief executive director Ang Hak Seng said that after Singapore experienced its worst haze two years ago, the PA updated its database to make sure vulnerable residents would receive the help they need.

The packs will be distributed within a week.

Air quality in Singapore was slightly better yesterday than it has been for much of the week, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovering in the low end of the unhealthy range.

The National Environment Agency has said wind direction could change tomorrow, which would ease the haze.

Non-governmental groups and individuals are also playing a part.

Environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore, working with volunteer group People's Movement to Stop Haze and the non-government Singapore Institute of International Affairs, has started a campaign to raise awareness of the haze.

Volunteers were in places such as Orchard Road to distribute masks, and encourage people to switch to brands that use sustainable palm oil, grown without hurting wildlife or cutting primary and high-conservation-value forests.

Another group, Stand Up For Our Singapore, started a crowdfunding drive on Monday night to raise funds to buy air filters and air purifiers for the low-income elderly in North Bridge Road.

Over $4,000 was raised within the first 24 hours.