Remarks by Mr Jaryll Chan, SIF Division Director, Programmes at the Closing of the Physiotherapy Bachelor Upgrade Programme, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Her Excellency Prak Thaveakpheary,
Prof Vonthanak Saphonn,
Prof Chua Yeow Leng
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and thank you for joining us to celebrate the successful collaboration between Singaporean and Cambodian healthcare professionals to collectively enhance the standards of physiotherapy services in Cambodia. I am very pleased to share that the Singapore International Foundation, or SIF’s, Physiotherapy Bachelor Upgrade Programme in Cambodia has trained over 80 physiotherapy practitioners across the country. Annually, these upskilled healthcare practitioners will benefit 80,000 Cambodians seeking physiotherapy services.  To see the impact that we have achieved together by joining hands has made this a very fulfilling journey.

Amidst the backdrop of the changing needs of the people, the suite of our healthcare services must also evolve and grow. Physiotherapists play a large role in this new landscape to ensure that the right care is delivered to the patients in need. Training our talent and developing them is key to ensuring that. The SIF is privileged to have worked together with our partners Technical School of Medical Care, University of Health Sciences, Cambodia (TSMC-UHS) and Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) on this project.

Over the past five years, a team of Singapore International Volunteers, or SIVs, have worked closely with Cambodian healthcare practitioners to develop the Physiotherapy Bachelor Upgrade Programme which has allowed Diploma in Physiotherapy graduates to upgrade their skills and knowledge to a bachelor’s degree. Today, we are proud to say that we have 13 Cambodian graduates from the inaugural cohort holding a Bachelor Degree in Physical Therapy. We look forward to the second cohort kicking off later this year.

Alongside this bridging programme, the SIF, together with UHS and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is in the process of developing the Bachelor Degree for future high school graduates. In time to come, we hope that this will replace the diploma bridging programme and also create a new educational pathway for the development of physiotherapy talent and expertise in Cambodia. It is also heartwarming to know that the Cambodian counterpart leading this effort – Song Sit – is also a graduate of another capacity building programme by the SIF almost a decade ago. Our longterm commitment and dream of building capacity amongst allied healthcare professionals alongside our Cambodian friends is bearing fruit.

Parallel to these developments, we have been heartened by the development and progress of the National Standards for Physical Therapy Professional Practice, which was endorsed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation in December last year.  Adoption of these minimum standards in providing and ensuring safe, effective and good quality delivery of physiotherapy services will further promote and strengthen the physical therapy profession and recognition in Cambodia.  We are pleased that the Physiotherapy Bachelor Upgrade Programme was acknowledged to have played a role in the development of the physiotherapy practice in Cambodia.

All this would not have been possible without the SIVs who have worked together with the Cambodian trainers. From the overall cohort of 80 physiotherapists, 12 core faculty members have stepped up to enhance their knowledge and competency skills to teach the programme beyond the first cohort.  The sustainability of this programme is now secured with these master trainers.

It is an opportune moment to recognise the SIV Team Lead, Professor Celia Tan and her vision of more than a decade to raise the overall standards of healthcare services in Cambodia and build a professional development ecosystem for its practitioners. We also recognise the team of SIVs who have contributed their time and efforts in this meaningful project over the years.  Special mention also goes to Ms Irene Toh, Principal Physiotherapist of NTUC Health Co-operative Limited, who took several months off from her work to stay in Cambodia to provide leadership and guidance for the successful implementation of Physiotherapy Bachelor Upgrade Programme as Programme Director.

These individuals validate the work we undertake at the SIF, to connect international communities to enable collaborations and effect positive change. Since 2002, the SIF has sent volunteers from Singapore to Cambodia on capacity-building projects to uplift lives by sharing knowledge, skills and resources. These collaborations over the years have strengthened ties between our peoples and fostered many friendships.

As my parting note, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to UHS for this privilege of working together again. To the Cambodian team of module leaders and co-leaders who have generously contributed their time over the past few years to develop the bridging programme and teach, the world is a better place with friends like you.

Thank you all for joining us to be part of this journey to build a better world - one that is peaceful, inclusive and offers opportunities for all. I wish you a pleasant day ahead.



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