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1,500 healthcare workers resigned in first 6 months of 2021: MOH

SINGAPORE — Resignations among healthcare workers have gone up in the first half of this year under the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said on Monday (Nov 1).

1,500 healthcare workers resigned in first 6 months of 2021: MOH

Public hospital clusters said that they have provided counselling services, helplines for employees and peer support programmes to support healthcare workers and look after their well-being.

SINGAPORE — Resignations among healthcare workers have gone up in the first half of this year under the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said on Monday (Nov 1).

Giving an update in Parliament on the current situation in the intensive care units and hospitals, Dr Janil said about 1,500 healthcare workers have resigned in the first half of 2021 alone, compared to about 2,000 annually pre-pandemic.

More foreign healthcare workers have also resigned, with the ministry receiving close to 500 resignations from foreign doctors and nurses in the first half of 2021, up from around 500 for the whole of last year and around 600 in 2019.

“These resignations were mostly tendered for personal reasons, for migration, or moving back to their home countries,” said Dr Janil.

He added that signs of fatigue can be seen among healthcare workers who have battled the pandemic for the past 20 months.

A large proportion of these workers have also not had the opportunity to take leave since 2020, and over 90 per cent of them will not be able to clear their accumulated leave for 2021. This is a higher proportion compared to the past two years.

MOH Holdings recently announced that healthcare workers could apply for overseas leave to travel to countries under the recently implemented vaccinated travel lane.

“Our healthcare workers have gone way beyond the call of duty to care for their patients. The hospitals are trying to minimise having staff work overtime,” said Dr Janil.

He pointed out that for the month of September, nurses worked an average of 160 to 175 hours per month.

To combat the manpower crunch, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is actively redeploying manpower to serve as healthcare or patient care assistants at health institutions.

It is also stepping up recruitment of healthcare workers from overseas.

“Our public healthcare institutions have also stepped up their outreach to staff on support measures to safeguard their well-being. This includes providing counselling services, staff helplines and peer support programmes,” said Dr Janil.

Responding to a question by Dr Tan Wu Meng, Member of Parliament from Jurong Group Representation Constituency, who asked about hospital departments factoring in sick leave as one of the indicators of work performance, Dr Janil gave the assurance that though there have been previously isolated incidents, this practice has ceased.

He added that healthcare workers who are concerned about the way sick leave affects their performance appraisals can approach their union, MOH, or the Manpower Ministry for assistance.

Referencing an earlier comment by Dr Puthucheary about the ongoing recruitment of healthcare workers from overseas, the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh asked for the recruitment figures for the first half of this year.

While Dr Puthucheary said he was unable to share specific numbers, he did point out some challenges of recruiting workers from overseas. 

One of the challenges, he said, is that while they may not be inexperienced, they may not be familiar with Singapore’s healthcare protocols.

So even though Singapore has been actively recruiting healthcare workers from overseas, he said they will not make a “huge difference” in contributing towards running intensive care units (ICU).

Earlier, Dr Puthucheary said Singapore may have all the equipment needed to keep increasing the number of beds for Covid-19 patients needing intensive care, but it does not have enough people to staff these beds.

However, he told Mr Singh that it will make a difference in other parts of the healthcare system, and it can at least help free up more experienced healthcare workers to help out in the ICUs. 

RECOGNISING HEALTHCARE WORKERS

Separately, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, the MP for Sembawang GRC, asked whether MOH had plans to support and recognise healthcare workers given the amount of stress they have shouldered and the work they have put in as a result of the pandemic.

In response, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that while monetary reward is not everything, it is a suggestion that his ministry will “seriously look into”.

He said such a reward will recognise the commitment, dedication, and all the physical, mental emotional stress that healthcare workers had to go through. 

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