Forum: Not fair to imply medical community is resistant to change

I was disappointed to read Mr Tan Siak Khian's letter (Solutions to healthcare manpower crunch needed, Feb 16), which implied that the healthcare community is resistant to change.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and various hospitals have made many innovations that benefited all stakeholders in the healthcare system.

Public Health Preparedness Clinics were set up to mobilise family clinics to help out during public health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Community Health Assist Scheme allows Singaporeans to enjoy subsidies when consulting doctors at private family medical clinics.

The GPFirst programme was set up to divert non-emergency patients to nearby general practitioner clinics, to prevent them from jamming up the accident and emergency departments at restructured hospitals.

These innovations, and many more, help Singaporeans get prompt and quality medical care, without compromising the quality of care.

But these efforts require lots of work on the ground, including data collection and analysis, focus group discussion, planning and piloting schemes, and refining the schemes.

Regarding house officers' 30-hour overnight shifts, all doctors in Singapore have gone through them. Most felt we benefited from the learning opportunities we had during the night calls.

Shortening it to, say, a 12-hour shift, would be easy. But the complicated issue is how to avoid compromising the training and learning of junior doctors.

One simple follow-up measure would be to lengthen housemanship from the current 12 months to 24 months.

Another solution could be to assign senior doctors to do night calls with house officers, to enhance their learning.

But these measures would require much consideration before implementation. And they may not be welcomed by all stakeholders.

It is heartening to learn that MOH has set up a committee that includes both senior and junior doctors to look into the training of house officers, including their night duty.

I urge Mr Tan to be patient, and be confident that the medical community will come up with an effective and innovative solution.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

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