Since 1970, the Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF) has taken a proactive role in promoting national heart health in the community. As part of its continuous mission to help those in need, a funding scheme named the ‘Heart Support Fund’ (HSF) was formed for needy heart patients. Over the years, the HSF has helped numerous needy cardiac patients and their families. Take Mr KeeTwan Loy for example, who is a sole breadwinner of his family of three. His ailing wife is unable to work, and his only son is still a student, studying part-time in the university. Mr Kee has very little savings as he did not earn a lot before his heart attack occurred. After the heart attack, he was forced to leave his job and his current new job pays him less than half of what he used to earn.
Under such circumstances, Mr Kee is eligible to apply for the emergency relief assistance from the HSF, through his hospital’s medical social worker (MSW). His application was approved promptly, and he was offered free cardiac rehabilitation at the SHF-Heart Wellness Centre. Mr Kee has also made a conscientious effort to adopt a healthy lifestyle, so as to minimise his risk of another heart attack.
Needy Cardiac Patients.
Cost has been cited in many countries as one of the barriers to receiving prompt cardiac treatment and rehabilitation. However, with the generosity of supportive donors, SHF is able to offer heavily subsidised rehabilitation to all clients and financial aid for those at a disadvantage through the HSF. SHF works closely with MSWs from the various healthcare institutions to identify cardiac patients who may be facing financial difficulties, as well as those who require financial aid but do not qualify for any assistance scheme. The table below highlights the four specific areas where patients may require the most financial assistance on.
Patients undergoing a heart transplant surgery are entitled to the Heart Transplant Subsidy from the Ministry of Health. As there is a maximum cap on this subsidy, patients who are unable to settle the outstanding balance of their operation and subsequent follow-up treatments, may request for additional financial support from SHF through their MSW.
SHF will assist each heart transplant patient up to a maximum of $20,000. Further funding beyond this limit is subject to review by the SHF-HSF Committee.
Patients receive a 65-80% subsidy for the
implantation of mechanical heart devices, using the Health Science Development Fund from the Ministry of Health. However, the balance cannot be paid using the patient’s existing Medifund.
Patients with financial constraints may apply to SHF for help through their MSW. The HSF is able to provide a subsidy of up to $20,000, to defray the cost of each patient’s mechanical heart device. Further funding beyond this limit is subject to review by the SHF-HSF Committee.
Some patients are the sole breadwinners in their respective families. After being caught unaware by the sudden occurrence of their cardiac condition, these patients may be unable to resume their former jobs after receiving treatment and may face difficulties in finding a replacement job. Others may also suffer from income loss, due to taking time off from work to attend cardiac rehabilitation programmes or for follow-up medical appointments.
To help such patients adjust during the difficult phase, the HSF provides emergency relief assistance of $300-$800/month for a maximum period of three months and on a case-to-case basis, up to an additional three months for each patient following the treatment of their heart condition. Further funding beyond this limit is subject to review by the SHF-HSF Committee.
Cardiac patients are mostly prescribed with medication for the rest of their lives. Depending on their heart condition, some of them require drugs that are not subsidised because they are classified as a non-standard prescription. As such, these drugs are expensive to purchase, causing a huge financial burden on the patients and their families. Similarly, others may require many types of long-term medication to manage their conditions and again, the high costs can strain these patients financially.
Frequent routine follow-ups at the hospitals may also take a physical and financial toil on patients, as many are often too frail to use public transportation, hence they rely heavily on taxis to get there. Under the HSF, SHF has started a Cab Charge scheme to reimburse the taxi fares, so that patients are compliant with the follow-ups or rehabilitation appointments.
The HSF also assists needy patients in other aspects, which are currently not covered by their subsidies and grants. For instance, some patients may require assistive devices, such as a wheelchair and oxygen concentrators. These equipments are essential to ensure quality of life for the cardiac patients, but they are usually not subsidised under the MediShield Life scheme.
The HSF is also pro-rehab and is supportive of any approved therapy for needy heart patients, as recommended by the cardiologist.
Heart Support Fund Application Procedure
Patient Support Groups
In addition, the SHF encourages patients to gather and form Patient Support Groups (PSGs). This is to provide invaluable peer and emotional support to heart patients and their families, adjusting to life after a heart attack and to motivate them to maintain healthier lifestyles.
Such social interaction will give the patients renewed confidence in life.
Interested PSGs seeking financial assistance for their activities will be assessed on the eligibility criteria below:
Needy cardiac patients may approach their hospital medical social workers, who will write in to SHF for funding. For more information, please contact the Heart Wellness Centre at 6354 9340.