Move to train health staff who may lose jobs to tech

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng observing TTSH senior patient service associates Woon Shi Mei and Toh Bee Lay demonstrate how to draw blood under the watchful eyes of senior nurse manager Ho Kim Hong.
NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng observing TTSH senior patient service associates Woon Shi Mei and Toh Bee Lay demonstrate how to draw blood under the watchful eyes of senior nurse manager Ho Kim Hong.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS CHONG

Healthcare Academy being set up by NTUC LearningHub and healthcare employees' union

In the next three to five years, when medical records in Singapore are expected to be fully digitised, the 600 public healthcare workers who manage this paperwork could find that their jobs have become obsolete.

Similarly, the 4,000 patient service associates in the local public healthcare workforce, who handle patient registration and payments, may find their roles being taken over by self-registration machines and payment kiosks.

Before such workers find themselves displaced by technology, NTUC LearningHub and the Healthcare Services Employees' Union (HSEU) are setting up a Healthcare Academy to ensure they can adapt and remain employable.

The courses will be held at NTUC LearningHub at the NTUC Trade Union House in Bras Basah. This is the largest training initiative to be launched in the healthcare sector.

Speaking to the media at the launch of the academy yesterday, National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said it will look at training workers to take on new roles that are being created in the growing healthcare sector, which the Ministry of Health has said will need 9,000 more workers by 2020.

"It will provide useful training for our workers. In each profession, they can add value for the patient... which increases their productivity, so that the hospital can reward them better with longer careers, expanded career paths and better wages, welfare and work prospects," he said.

For a start, the academy will offer three courses, with two on mindset change and one on how to embrace and adapt to a digital workplace.

Over the next six months, NTUC LearningHub and HSEU will work with hospitals and their employees to understand their potential challenges, refine the curriculum and launch more courses, Mr Ng said.

Labour unionist K. Thanaletchimi said the focus for the first set of courses is on mindset change and digital literacy because about one-third of the medical record officers and patient service assistants who will be affected by technological disruption are middle-aged and older. "We need to have such programmes for them so they can proceed without fear," she added. "There will be a second and third phase where we will roll out courses on deep skills such as therapy assistance."

The courses will also be geared towards training workers for roles such as community nursing and case management, as the need for such skills is increasing. Course content will be constantly tweaked to ensure it remains relevant.

The launch of the academy was held at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), which has been training its workers to take on expanded job scopes for the past several years.

Ms Toh Bee Lay, 41, whose job for the past six years has been to register patients and handle payments, was trained a few years ago to draw blood from patients for diagnostic laboratory tests. "I find my job more meaningful now as I get to talk to the patients more. I also feel more secure about my future," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2018, with the headline 'Move to train health staff who may lose jobs to tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe