Forum: Solutions to healthcare manpower crunch needed

Should the ritual of making junior house officers work 30- to 36-hour shifts, seen as a rite of passage by some senior doctors, continue or should Singapore be adapting practices to suit the times (Alternatives to house officers' long shifts may come with attendant complications, Feb 11)?

If 30- to 36-hour shifts during normal operations are not recognised as a problem to begin with, then all this talk about mental well-being and taking care of our healthcare workers rings hollow.

As a concerned layman, I wonder if it may be more constructive to not just label this as another "strawberry generation" issue, but instead view it from a broader perspective.

If the civil service were resistant to change, Singapore's civil servants would still be working 5½-day weeks now.

And if we were still focused on getting our soldiers to shine their boots or starch their uniforms till they can stand upright, we might not have the 3G Singapore Armed Forces capabilities today - when the sum of all fighting units acting in unison has become a force multiplier, helping us combat our dwindling manning levels without losing capabilities.

According to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease report, while the average life expectancy of Singaporeans is 84.9 years, the healthy average life expectancy is only 73.9 years. That's 11 years spent in ill health needing medical attention.

Even before the pandemic, demand for medical services had increased so much that it was common to wait three to six months to get a referral to see a specialist at a public hospital.

Being a small country with limited manpower, is it practical to expect the public healthcare sector to shoulder the full burden of a pandemic?

The Singapore Armed Forces conducts civil resource requisition exercises to practise activating private sector assets. Should we be looking at formalising something similar for the medical fraternity? And in so doing, is it possible to tweak the system to meet the current manpower crunch we are already facing?

If we don't even have that spare capacity now, what then if the dreaded Disease X should hit us?

Tan Siak Khian

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