September 28, 2022

1,500 healthcare workers resigned in 1H 2021: Puthucheary

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SINGAPORE — A total of 1,500 healthcare workers have resigned in the first half of 2021, compared to about 2,000 annually before the pandemic, said Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Health Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Monday (1 November).

The SMS told the House that more foreign healthcare workers have also resigned, compounded by their inability to travel to see their families back home. Almost 500 foreign doctors and nurses resigned in the first half of 2021, compared to around 500 in the whole of 2020 and around 600 in 2019.

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

Delivering a ministerial statement on ICU and hospital capacity, Dr Puthucheary stressed that Singapore’s healthcare personnel are carrying an “unimaginable” burden of care. “Having to hold a phone for a patient so their family can say their last goodbyes. Holding their hand, to keep them company, on behalf of the patient’s relatives. They need all the support we can give them.”

Many healthcare workers have been unable to take leave since 2020, and over 90 per cent of them will not be able to clear their accumulated leave for 2021. This amounts to more than 20 months of continuous daily battle against the pandemic, said the SMS.

For the month of September, nurses worked for an average of 160 to 175 hours per month.

Dr Puthucheary quoted a WhatsApp message from a medical colleague, “It feels like what started as a 2.4k run became a marathon, and just as we are reaching the finishing line, we have to run a second marathon. Our people are exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally – whether they will admit it or not.”

He added that MOH is actively redeploying manpower to serve as healthcare or patient care assistants, and also reaching out to more volunteers to join the SG Healthcare Corps. It is collaborating with private hospitals to help ease some of the load on healthcare workers in public hospitals and stepping up recruitment of healthcare workers from overseas.

In addition, public healthcare institutions have stepped up outreach to staff on support measures to safeguard their well-being. These include providing counselling services, staff helplines, and peer support programmes.

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