Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Philippines has suspended its overseas permits for nurses, once again highlighting Singapore's dependence on foreign nurses. And this shortage is felt globally, not just in Singapore (S'pore explores all options with nurses in short supply, July 11).
Besides growing the local workforce and boosting productivity with automation and technology, how about requiring every Singaporean woman to be trained as a nursing aide and work for a short period of, say, three months?
This may sound radical, but some years down the road, this would mean that every family would have someone who has at least some basic nursing skills, competent enough to be of help when the need arises.
When I worked as a nurse in a ward, I saw how helpless some family members were when they wanted to help their sick loved ones but were unsure how to do so.
Staff nurses have heavy responsibilities - serving medication on time, giving injections and drips, and writing and handing over reports - and these are skilled roles which the public cannot perform.
When there is a shortage of nursing staff, nurses sometimes go without their meal breaks. Often, nurses just need an extra pair of hands to help with activities such as changing the diaper of a bed-bound patient, assisting patients who need to go to the toilet and providing an extra pair of eyes for patients at risk of falling.
A battalion of nursing aides would come in very handy.
If the nation's women go through basic healthcare training, which would include learning how to help bathe and move people, when their parents grow old, they can care for them better.
If they are given bedside exposure, they may learn to be more compassionate, and future generations might be more willing to take care of the elderly. This is very good for Singapore's ageing population.
Teaching people healthcare skills is also in tandem with preparation for the new normal, in which Covid-19 is endemic.
Candice Yeo Chay Hoon