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Leon Perera urges making healthcare careers attractive in SG, lest talent gets poached by other countries

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Make Singapore more attractive to foreign healthcare professionals also, he says

SINGAPORE: Workers’ Party MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) underlined in Parliament on Wednesday (May 10) the importance of the healthcare sector to society. He said, “When deciding how liveable and how advanced a society is, the quality and affordability of its healthcare sector plays a key role.”

Mr Perera addressed the challenge Singapore’s healthcare sector is facing in “recruitment and retention and raising the productivity of healthcare workers”.

Parliament debated on Wednesday a motion to support healthcare beyond the pandemic. The motion was tabled by three Nominated MPs: Tan Yia Swam, Shahira Abdullah, and Abdul Samad.

Mr Perera recounted raising the issue of attracting more Singaporeans to the healthcare sector during dinner with his family.

His daughter immediately said, “Give them decent working hours, respect at work and good pay.”

Mr Perera argued that compensation needs to be competitive so that healthcare talent can be attracted and retained. Otherwise, many countries, also suffering from a staff shortage, could “poach our English-speaking and well-trained healthcare workers”, he said.

He suggested tracking compensation for healthcare personnel  “based on hourly compensation – total pay per hour worked – and regularly benchmarked against other developed country locations, with the results published, so that we have a clear indicator of how we are doing and whether or not we will face choppy waters ahead that we would need to take heed of”.

He reiterated that junior doctors’ working hours should be reduced from 80 to 70 hours. Let us “move towards 100 per cent compliance with the current 10-hour intervals between duty periods and after in-house calls”, he said.

Regarding workload, he acknowledged Health Minister Ong Ye Kung’s announcement of the nursing student intake rising from 2,100 to 2,300 a year.

“This should help with meeting demand, if nurses stay in the profession. Right now, the proportion of Singaporeans among enrolled nurses is a little over 60 per cent. It is important, for such a critical profession, to maintain a strong Singapore core and good career progression for nurses who can progress into more senior nurse practitioner and leadership roles.”

He also suggested that preferential consideration be given to foreign healthcare workers, such as nurses who have been working in Singapore for a number of years, to help them obtain permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

I believe some members of this House have called for this before and the government has said it is open to such an idea.

I would repeat my call for the giving of citizenship to be made more transparent, with the availability of an online point-based calculator similar to what you see in some other countries.

This may make Singapore more attractive to healthcare professionals from other countries by providing more clarity and assurance.

Mr Perera’s speech may be viewed in full here.


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