We refer to recent letters in The Straits Times on developing our healthcare professionals .
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is committed to growing a strong local core of healthcare professionals to meet the increasing needs of our ageing population ("How are foreign doctors selected?" by Mr Francis Cheng, "Work to retain public sector docs" by Mr Ho Kar Kaye and "Not easy to attract medical teaching staff" by Ms Ada Chan Siew Foen; all published on Nov 27, and "Shortage of doctors? Train more Singaporeans locally" by Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong; Nov 25).
Through joint efforts by MOH and the Ministry of Education, the local medical intake has increased by about 29 per cent, from 350 to 460 between 2012 and this year, and is expected to grow to 500 eventually.
Over the same period, the local nursing intake increased by 17 per cent, from 1,550 to 1,820.
We need to expand our local healthcare manpower pipelines in a calibrated and gradual fashion.
This enables us to maintain the quality of training for students in healthcare programmes and avoid straining the training resources of our public healthcare institutions.
MOH and our public healthcare institutions also protect time for experienced healthcare professionals to train the next generation, with outstanding educators recognised, for example, through the National Medical Excellence Awards.
The Pre-Employment Grant (PEG) was introduced in 2010 to attract Singaporeans studying medicine overseas to return to practise locally.
As of March this year, 615 PEGs have been awarded.
All overseas-trained doctors, including foreign doctors, need to meet the Singapore Medical Council's stringent registration requirements before they can practise here.
MOH takes a holistic approach in our efforts to enhance retention of our healthcare professionals.
We worked with public healthcare institutions to implement a new pay framework for public sector doctors in 2012.
The revised framework better recognised the complex roles they play in public healthcare.
Many of these roles are unique to the public sector, offering our doctors a fulfilling career that allows them to manage more challenging clinical cases, nurture future generations of doctors, undertake research to improve patient care and take up leadership positions in their organisations.
For nurses, the Care Package launched last year introduced, among other initiatives, two rounds of pay increases and a new Assistant Nurse Clinician role to enhance clinical competency and recognition for experienced nurses. Almost 400 nurses have been promoted into the role as of July this year.
Public healthcare institutions have also put in place measures to improve the work environment for our healthcare professionals, such as adopting IT to minimise administrative workload.
MOH is also working with these institutions to redesign care delivery processes in tandem with the evolving needs of our ageing population.
Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Ministry of Health