SINGAPORE - Over 90 per cent of junior doctors recruited by the holding company of Singapore's public healthcare clusters annually are local.
These doctors are either graduates from one of the three local medical schools, or returning Singaporeans who pursued overseas medical studies at recognised universities, said a spokesman for MOH Holdings (MOHH) in a statement on Saturday.
The three local schools are the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University, the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, and the Duke-NUS Medical School.
The statement comes amid an online furore surrounding an ongoing tender, issued on Sept 6, by the company for a recruitment agency to provide services for recruiting doctors in India.
The tender, which closes on Oct 10, was picked up by social media users and alternative news site The Online Citizen, which raised concerns about efforts taken to hire local doctors as well as alleged incidents of widespread fraud among Indian medical students and doctors.
A letter to The Straits Times Forum also asked whether it would be possible to recruit Singaporean doctors trained in countries such as Britain and the United States and are based there.
When asked whether MOHH intends to expand the recruitment of Singaporean doctors trained overseas, the spokesman declined to comment.
She also would not comment on whether junior doctors from India make up the majority of those who are not local, and whether it issues similar tenders for recruitment services in other countries.
She said MOHH recruits about 700 junior doctors to support the needs of Singapore's public healthcare institutions every year. "We have increased our local pipeline over the years."
Between 2012 and 2019, Singapore's medical schools increased their combined intakes by 45 per cent from 350 in 2012 to about 510 in 2019, the spokesman added.
The schools admitted another 40 medical students each year in 2020 and 2021 to cater to students whose overseas medical studies were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We size the intake of our local universities, based on the need of the healthcare sector and also the admission standards of the universities," she said.
"Naturally, this means that places in medical schools are highly sought after, admission is very competitive but, on the other hand, graduates from our medical school are very highly regarded."
The spokesman said MOHH has been recruiting from other countries with qualified doctors, not just India, to supplement Singapore's capacity needs and help reduce the heavy workload of existing doctors.
They must have graduated from medical schools that are on the Second Schedule of the Medical Registration Act, she added.
"These doctors will only be granted conditional registration for clinical practice and under strict supervision.
"They may eventually convert to full registration if they remain in good standing and have favourable supervisory reports attesting to their professionalism and competency."
She added: "Regardless of nationality, we value the contributions of each and every single doctor to Singapore and our healthcare system."