SINGAPORE - As part of efforts to enhance Singapore’s nursing workforce, the Republic expects to employ almost 4,000 new nurses by end-2023, Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung said on Monday.
This increase, which will begin from the middle of 2023, represents about 10 per cent of the current number of nurses here, said Mr Ong, adding that it is about 700 more than the number of new nurses in 2021.
Foreign nurses will make up about 60 per cent of the new nurses, to make up for the slowdown in foreign nurse recruitment during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
“Even whilst we ramp up foreign recruitment to bolster our nursing workforce, the large majority of our nursing workforce will continue to be local and contributed through our nursing school intakes and mid-career training programmes,” he added.
Tackling the manpower shortage will help lighten the workload of nurses, said Mr Ong, noting the country had lost many experienced foreign nurses as a result of the competition for nurses from other countries during the pandemic.
In August, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam said the proportion of nurses in public hospitals who resigned reached a five-year high in 2021, with 7.4 per cent of local nurses and 14.8 per cent of foreign nurses leaving their jobs.
In July, Mr Ong announced that more than 25,000 nurses in the public sector would receive a special payment of between 1.7 and 2.1 months of their base salary in 2022, as part of efforts to attract and retain nursing talent.
Though the crunch at hospitals has made headlines recently, bed occupancies, emergency department (ED) attendances and bed wait times have improved with the wave of infections caused by the XBB Covid-19 sub-variant having subsided, Mr Ong said.
He added that hospitals have reported that the number of non-urgent ED patients waiting for beds has halved from the peak of the XBB wave, while patients who require urgent care have always been admitted immediately.
The median wait times at EDs have fallen from seven hours two weeks ago to about four hours, Mr Ong noted.
He added that the authorities are working to further reduce bed occupancies by removing the ringfencing of beds for Covid-19 patients, as well as expanding the number of transitional care facilities.
Such facilities admit medically stable patients from public hospitals while they wait for their transfers to intermediate and long-term care facilities or for their discharge plans to be finalised.
Mr Ong noted the newest such transitional care facility, Crawfurd Hospital, which opened on Nov 4, has 43 beds for transitional patients, of which about 15 are now occupied. This has helped relieve the inpatient load for Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which it is partnered with, he said.
The Health Ministry is now working with Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital to act as a partner facility for Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, he added.
Mr Ong was speaking during the ceremony of the Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award for Enrolled Nurses, held at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University.
Ms Anna Goh, a senior enrolled nurse who has been with Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s neurology ward for 17 years, clinched the top prize this year.
Besides caring for patients with neurological conditions, the 37-year-old has participated in many clinical projects, including assisting in developing a clinical guideline to eliminate catheter-associated urinary tract infection.
Mr Ong said the shift to preventative healthcare under the Healthier SG initiative means the role of enrolled nurses will evolve further.
Enrolled nurses – who typically support registered nurses and are responsible for providing bedside care and monitoring a patient’s condition – can play a key role in supporting patients, by educating them on their recommended health screenings and lifestyle adjustments prescribed within care protocols, said Mr Ong.
These changes are currently under deliberation, he said, adding he hoped to engage enrolled nurses in these discussions.
“We will engage you in our conversations, and look forward to your continued contribution in transforming our healthcare system,” said Mr Ong, addressing the enrolled nurses at the event.