Parliament: More than 2,000 foreign nurses went for language courses in last 5 years

Filipino nurse, Ms Benilda T Bautista, attending to a patient. More than 2,000 foreign nurses have enrolled in language training courses over the last five years, Parliamentary Secretary (Health) Faishal Ibrahim said in Parliament on Thursday, M
Filipino nurse, Ms Benilda T Bautista, attending to a patient. More than 2,000 foreign nurses have enrolled in language training courses over the last five years, Parliamentary Secretary (Health) Faishal Ibrahim said in Parliament on Thursday, May 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than 2,000 foreign nurses have enrolled in language training courses over the last five years, Parliamentary Secretary (Health) Faishal Ibrahim said in Parliament on Thursday.

And about 35 per cent of foreign staff who were recruited in the same period have participated in at least one language programme, he added.

Associate Professor Faishal was responding to a question tabled by Non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who wanted to know what measures were in place to ensure foreign healthcare workers do not get lost in translation when talking to non-English speaking patients here.

Mr Yee had also asked if more would be done to encourage these workers to learn Singapore's official languages and Chinese dialects.

To this, Prof Faishal said that aside from a Government training fund to help foreign nurses enrol in language courses, pictorial guides are also available to aid the communication process between staff and patients.

He added: "Our public healthcare institutions ensure that a good mix of local and foreign healthcare staff is rostered for each shift. They work as a team to care for our patients."

In a supplementary question, Mr Yee then asked if there was evidence to show that the 30-hour long language training programmes equips workers with "sufficient language skill to communicate with non-English (speaking) patients."

To this, Prof Faishal said that in addition to these courses, foreign healthcare workers also pick up language skills on the job and in their interactions with other staff members.

"We monitor them very closely in the sense that we want to make sure that the communication with the patient is properly done as it is part of the care process," he added.