SINGAPORE - About 100,000 public healthcare workers involved in the national response to the pandemic will receive a special award amounting to $4,000 each for their courage and invaluable work, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday (Nov 5).
The Covid-19 Healthcare Award will go to all staff of public healthcare institutions, such as acute hospitals, community hospitals and polyclinics, as well as staff from community care organisations that deliver front-line healthcare services, such as in nursing homes.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will also award a grant of $10,000 to each of the Public Health Preparedness Clinics, which serve as the first port of call for Covid-19 patients, to be shared among their staff.
Announcing the award at the National Medical Excellence Awards (NMEA) ceremony, Mr Ong said: "I know a monetary award does not fully reflect the contribution of healthcare workers, neither is it the main motivator of a healthcare worker.
"But it is an appropriate thing for MOH to do, to recognise your contribution in this very exceptional year."
The award will also be extended to nursing homes and dialysis centres that have expanded their capacity and worked tirelessly to keep vulnerable elderly in need of nursing care out of hospitals, freeing up hospital beds, MOH said in a statement on Friday.
The award will be given to public healthcare institution staff in December, and to PHPCs and eligible staff of the CCOs in the first quarter of 2022.
MOH, the Agency for Integrated Care and the public healthcare clusters - National Healthcare Group, National University Health System, and SingHealth - are working through the implementation and more details will be communicated to eligible staff when ready.
Mr Ong noted that in recent weeks, stress levels among healthcare staff have gone up a few more notches, as the Covid-19 transmission wave sustained at a high level, with more patients falling seriously ill and needing care in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Public hospitals had to set up more isolation and ICU beds, requiring nurses and doctors to be redeployed, and stretch already-long working hours even longer.
"This work is not for the faint-hearted. I have seen, with anger and shame, the disgraceful behaviour of those who shun nurses and healthcare workers, who turn away from you near your homes, who refuse your journeys," he said, adding that the great majority of society deeply appreciates their work.
"The front line stands between the virus and us. You are our last line of defence - standing between us and the abyss. When vaccination, safe management, therapeutics and the patient's last bodily resistance are all breached, you still refuse to yield. You stand next to the patient as his last hope."
Mr Ong also said Covid-19 had turbo-charged the process of innovation in healthcare, which must be a top priority in the coming decade, together with transformation.
One major disruption is the ageing population, which will drive healthcare expenditure from about $25 billion today to $60 billion by 2030, if nothing is done.
Resources should, therefore, be devoted early to help people stay healthy and prevent sickness.
There is also a need to rethink how healthcare is delivered, he added, noting that the centre of gravity is shifting away from acute hospitals to caring for patients within the community.
Associate Professor Yong Keng Kwang, group chief nurse at the National Healthcare Group, welcomed the award.
"The pandemic has tested our healthcare system and resilience, especially our nurses on the front lines who form the majority of the healthcare workforce," he said.
"The Covid-19 Healthcare Award recognises their hard work and sacrifices, and will boost and encourage them further to give their best to the patients they serve and our population."