THE Singapore Physiotherapy Association marks its 50th year of existence this year. There are slightly more than 1,000 physiotherapy professionals now, compared with fewer than 100 in the early 1960s.

I am pleased that the profession has grown, with an increasing number of researchers, clinical experts and physiotherapists working in the sports industry, private clinics and community child and aged-care rehabilitation facilities.

However, with an ageing population and a rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases, stroke and disabling diseases, the association is concerned whether there is sufficient planning to ensure adequate training and remuneration to keep physiotherapists in the public and community sectors, where they are needed most.

While most physiotherapists are working in public hospitals, a growing number have started private clinics to cater to demand for such services.

In the early 1960s, there were only a handful of such private clinics. More recently, that number has grown to nearly 100. At the same time, the community sector is having a hard time recruiting physiotherapists because of many reasons, one of which is remuneration that does not match that in other health-care sectors.

It is good to remind ourselves of the closure of four physiotherapy departments in the public sector in 1988 due to a shortage of physiotherapists ("Four govt hospitals stop physiotherapy services"; May 25, 1988).

Back then, many physiotherapists were leaving the hospitals because of better job prospects overseas and in the private sector. Will there be a similar situation in the coming years if we do not ensure more physiotherapists are trained and retained in the public sector?

Indeed, the role of physiotherapists has expanded a great deal since 1988. Today, such services are key in the continuum of care provided to patients requiring rehabilitation and a better quality of life.

We hope all physiotherapists here will join us in working closely with the various health-care providers to ensure accessible, affordable and quality physiotherapy care for the people in Singapore.

We have achieved much, but there is still more that can be done.