Nurses to receive 'retention payment' to keep them in the profession: Ong Ye Kung

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the Covid-19 pandemic is still ongoing and a major burden on nurses here. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Nurses will receive additional payments on top of their salaries in 2022 and 2023 in a move to keep them in the profession, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (July 29).

Mr Ong said the Covid-19 pandemic is still ongoing and a major burden on nurses here. “I think they are deserving of another payment, perhaps structured as a nurses’ retention payment,” he added. 

Speaking at the 2022 Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, Mr Ong said more details on the enhanced payment package will be announced on Nurses' Day, which falls on Aug 1. 

Mr Ong said remuneration must be addressed if Singapore is to keep building manpower in its healthcare sector - which it will need to do amid an ageing population and more international demand for qualified healthcare workers. 

He said the Government had finished a review of the salaries of nurses and allied health professionals in 2021, and the second phase adjustment for nurses was completed this month.

They are set to get increases of 5 per cent to 14 per cent on their monthly base salaries.

Due to the stresses borne of the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses were awarded special bonuses in 2020 and 2021, and given a Covid-19 Healthcare Award in 2021.

The healthcare award was given to staff of publicly funded healthcare organisations involved in the pandemic fight, and each individual received up to $4,000.

This was on top of their base salaries, which the Ministry of Health (MOH) said was between $3,300 and $5,200 a month for entry-level registered nurses, depending on their qualifications and adding in allowances and bonuses as at 2020. 

The strain on healthcare workers due to the pandemic caused many to leave the profession. 

Around 1,500 resigned in the first half of 2021 compared with 2,000 annually pre-pandemic.

Mr Ong said more must be done to support nurses, including streamlining unnecessary administrative work, introducing technology and improving IT systems.

He added that Singapore must continue to recruit good foreign nurses, given its small population. 

Foreign nurses currently make up about a third of the nursing workforce, he said.

This group, in particular, was hit hard by border closures caused by Covid-19.

In March, MOH said that the attrition rate for foreign nurses in 2021 was 14.8 per cent, compared with 7.4 per cent for local nurses. 

Said Mr Ong: “We will continue to find ways to entrench the feeling amongst foreign nurses that they are an integral part of the Singapore healthcare family, and they can continue to develop their careers in Singapore.” 

Good leadership is also crucial to building up manpower, he added, and healthcare scholarships are a key initiative to bring talent into the sector to groom as future leaders. 

On Friday, 120 students received scholarships to study nursing, social work, physiotherapy, diagnostic radiography and pharmaceutical science, among others.

Ms Zelda Chew, 21, will be pursuing a nursing degree at the National University of Singapore starting next week.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung with some of the scholarship recipients, including Ms Zelda Chew (right). PHOTO: MOH HOLDINGS

Ms Chew, whose younger sister is also studying nursing, said she was heartened by Mr Ong’s announcement that nurses will receive a pay bump. 

She said: “Covid-19 was really hard on nurses and they deserve to be recognised and they deserve a pay increment.” 

Correction note: This article has been edited to reflect the correct surname of Ms Zelda Chew. We are sorry for the error.

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