The Straits Times says

Rewarding nurses for staying the course

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It is heartening that more than 25,000 nurses serving in public healthcare clusters will receive a special package as their retention payment. The package will be extended to another 2,600 nurses working in publicly funded community care organisations. Keeping them in the profession constitutes a crucial need for Singapore amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, which places a major burden on nurses. The retention payment recognises their efforts and sacrifices concretely. Indeed, looking beyond immediate exigencies, the issue of appropriate remuneration must be addressed if Singapore is to keep building manpower in the healthcare sector with an ageing population, on the one hand, and more international demand for qualified healthcare workers, on the other.

Unfortunately, the strain on healthcare workers because of the pandemic has caused many to leave the profession. Around 1,500 resigned in the first half of 2021 compared with 2,000 annually before the onset of Covid-19. Foreign nurses are of particular concern. They make up about a third of the nursing workforce and were hit hard by border closures caused by Covid-19. The attrition rate for foreign nurses in 2021 was 14.8 per cent, compared with 7.4 per cent for local nurses. It is important for Singapore to be an attractive destination for foreign nurses by making them feel that they belong integrally to the healthcare ecosystem here, with career prospects that are commensurate with those available elsewhere. Of course, nothing can compensate them for the loss of proximate familial ties and the cultural comforts of home, but Singapore can and must be a home away from home.

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