Role models lost when doctors go private

Dr John Hui Keem Peng has drawn attention to the importance of senior doctors acting as positive role models for medical students ("Provide positive work culture for young doctors"; Tuesday).

Unfortunately, the exodus of experienced specialists to the private sector will lead to younger doctors losing their teachers and role models.

Working conditions at restructured hospitals can be tough. Apart from the heavy patient load and time spent on research, medical practitioners are buried under a pile of paperwork.

If senior doctors are not freed of unnecessary work so that they can concentrate on their clinical and teaching duties, they will eventually leave.

Even if working conditions in restructured hospitals are equitable and reasonable, many medical specialists succumb after seeing how lucrative the move to the private sector can be.

There is, undoubtedly, money to be made in private practice.

The push to make Singapore a regional medical hub also makes the transition from public service to private practice such an inviting proposition.

Many young doctors aspire to become specialists, build up their reputation, and then venture into private practice.

Since this natural progression seems almost inevitable for most young specialists, their mentors must remind them to be always guided by their conscience when managing patients.

Singapore may not be able to compete as a regional medical hub for long, as our neighbours remain significantly cheaper, even as they acquire new capabilities and modern facilities.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, we need to go into research and perfect new skills.

Since opportunities for research are limited in the private sector, progress can be made only in teaching hospitals possessing a meticulous peer review procedure, with principled teachers and mentors.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'Role models lost when doctors go private'. Print Edition | Subscribe