Healthcare workers may not need to take unpaid leave if they run out of sick leave

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung penned a note to healthcare workers in public hospitals and polyclinics. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The sick leave of healthcare workers can be recorded as hospitalisation leave in the coming days, following a request from the Healthcare Services Employees' Union. This means they do not have to take unpaid leave if they run out of sick leave.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said this in a note he penned to healthcare workers in public hospitals and polyclinics on Monday (Feb 21).

He said that to help further reduce patient loads, public messages will be pushed out to encourage those with mild symptoms to recover at home, and for employers to not require medical certificates from workers infected with Covid-19.

"I want to let you know that the Ministry of Health and your management will continue to do our best to support you, to pull through this difficult period, just as we ensured you have priority to vaccines and boosters, spread out cases by leveraging Covid-19 treatment facilities and general practitioners, and implemented the difficult no-visitors policy," he wrote.

"We will continue to do whatever we can."

Mr Ong added that a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with the Philippines will start soon, and the VTL quota with India will be restored. This will allow foreign healthcare workers to travel home to meet their families, and they will not have to serve quarantine when they return to Singapore.

To address manpower shortages, the healthcare volunteer corps is being mobilised and the Singapore Armed Forces has agreed to support hospitals with the heaviest patient loads by providing them with trained medics.

"For our healthcare workers, whether Delta or Omicron, I know your workload has been heavy," Mr Ong said.

"But MOH and the multi-ministry taskforce will also need to continue to explain to the public that Omicron is less severe than Delta because from the public's point of view, they need to know that Omicron poses less of a risk."

He said this would help members of the public to respond calmly instead of rushing to hospitals when their symptoms are mild.

In his letter, Mr Ong also addressed concerns about why safe management measures were being streamlined at this point in time.

He said the "micro rules" do not make a difference to the pandemic at present, and the focus for the public should be on the measures that can still help flatten the transmission wave, such as group sizes, masking and vaccination-differentiated measures.

"The pandemic has been going on for over two years now. Like you, we want to see the pandemic pass," he wrote.

"With each day our society becomes stronger and we move closer to normalcy. So hang in there for a while more. It is no longer light at the end of tunnel, but barring unforeseen circumstances, it is something within our grasp."

He thanked the healthcare workers and their families.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.