Ministry of Health to invest $12m to develop community care workforce

An elderly woman undergoing a physical therapy programme offered at St Luke's Eldercare Centre. Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said the Ministry of Health will be investing close to $12 million over the next four years to develop the community care workforce. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - There will be more scope for those interested in a community healthcare career, which includes disciplines such as social work and speech therapy.

The Ministry of Health is investing close to $12 million over the next four years to grow this workforce - through the Community Care Manpower Development Award.

This new award is a consolidation and expansion of the Agency for Integrated Care's (AIC) scholarships and awards. The agency oversees the community care sector here, which includes nursing homes, senior care centres and day rehabilitation facilities.

Under the new award, a wider range of healthcare disciplines will be covered. In addition to degree and post-graduate programmes, the award will now also cover entry-level qualifications. Furthermore, it has been extended to staff from all community care organisations, including private ones.

The $12 million boost to the sector was announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor on Tuesday (Sept 5), at a ceremony to present the award to the pioneer batch of about 30 recipients.

More than 70 other recipients of AIC's previous community care scholarships also received their awards at the event at the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital auditorium.

Said Dr Khor: "Building future skills at all levels of the community care workforce is critical to addressing the changing needs of an ageing population.

"From clinical areas like geriatric nursing and mental health to non-clinical areas like IT and community engagement, the demand for new skills will rise."

Dr Khor said recruitment efforts have resulted in more than 450 locals successfully finding employment in the sector over the past year.

She highlighted other programmes to support community care staff in enhancing their skills and careers.

The Institute of Technical Education will be offering a Work-Learn Technical Diploma in Rehabilitation Care from next April. Trainees in this programme will be able to work and study at the same time.

The Community Care Traineeship Programme provides on-the-job training for new support care staff.

And the Senior Management Associate Scheme allows professionals to make a mid-career switch into community care in managerial roles in areas such as operations, administration and information technology. This scheme welcomed its second batch of 27 associates in June, said Dr Khor.

She also stressed the need to improve productivity, given tighter manpower constraints amid rising demand for healthcare services.

She said that the ministry has been working with providers to enhance work processes, leverage technology and adopt shared services.

As of March, more than 60 community care providers have tapped the Healthcare Productivity Fund and undertaken more than 100 productivity improvement projects, said Dr Khor.

"With good training programmes for new entrants, and greater opportunities for existing staff to pursue further studies and develop their careers, seniors will benefit from better standards of care. I hope to see more individuals choosing to join community care, and more employers joining us in our efforts to grow and develop the sector."

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