SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) is stepping up efforts to attract local manpower to the sector, including those without prior experience who are looking to make a career switch.
It is also developing a more in-depth training programme for existing nurses, with part-time "stackable" courses that can add up to higher qualifications and allow nurses to study while working, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor during the debate on her ministry's budget on Wednesday (March 7).
"We hope to build a first-class nursing education system that can empower our nurses with deep skills, and give them the confidence to be at the forefront of driving care transformation," Dr Khor said.
Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Nominated MP K. Thanaletchimi had both asked about manpower shortages in the healthcare sector, especially given Singapore's growing healthcare needs in the intermediate and long-term care sector. This refers to nursing homes, home care and senior daycare services.
"How can we better attract locals for the jobs (in this sector) when at present, 80 to 90 per cent of these jobs are filled by foreigners?" asked Ms Thanaletchimi, who is president of the Healthcare Services Employees' Union.
Ms Pereira had also asked if the ministry could draw on the pool of retirees in Singapore to fill manpower gaps in this sector.
Dr Khor said that at present, the vast majority of public sector healthcare professionals who hit 62 are re-employed, and that MOH will do more to hire seniors who do not have prior healthcare experience.
She added that the total intake of medical students has gone up by 40 per cent in the past five years, while that of nursing students has increased by 30 per cent in the same period.
Dr Khor also outlined new schemes to draw more people to the sector.
For example, the National University of Singapore will launch a new part-time graduate diploma in community health nursing later this year. Next month, the Institute of Technical Education will roll out a Work-Learn Technical Diploma in rehabilitation care.
In addition, said Dr Khor, MOH is working with SkillsFuture Singapore to develop a framework to recognise skills for nurses, allied health professionals, and support care staff.
"Given the twin challenges of rising demand for healthcare and slowing local labour force growth, we need to ensure sustainability of the healthcare workforce over the long term," Dr Khor said.