Singapore has record 13,006 doctors

The number of doctors here hit a new high of 13,006 last year, with the addition of 930 newly registered doctors, the Singapore Medical Council said in its latest annual report published last week.

This brings the doctor-to-population ratio to 1:444, up from 1:640 a decade ago in 2005.

With a greater need for healthcare professionals as Singapore's population grows and ages, the authorities have been actively recruiting foreigners to fill the gap.

Nearly 20 per cent, or 2,366, of the doctors working here are foreign ones, with most of them in the public sector. Only 201 foreign doctors are in private practice. These do not include foreign doctors who have become Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

The report said that of the 543 new doctors granted provisional registration - these are graduates doing their one year of housemanship - 249 were from the National University of Singapore, 48 from the DukeNUS Medical School and 246 from foreign universities.

Of the newly registered doctors, 190 were overseas-trained Singaporeans or PRs, up from 160 in 2014.

The Ministry of Health has been trying to get locals studying medicine overseas to return, with pre-employment grants of up to $50,000 a year to pay for tuition fees for up to three years. On their return, these students are bonded for three to four years, including a one-year housemanship training.

The SMC report showed that roughly two in three doctors, or 8,562, work in the public sector, of whom 5,467 are non-specialists.

Of the 4,444 doctors in private practice, 2,751 are non-specialists. These are mainly general practitioners and family physicians.

There were 4,788 specialists, or 37 per cent of all doctors, at the end of last year. The specialities with the most practitioners are paediatric medicine (356), diagnostic radiology (320) and obstetrics and gynaecology (316).

Meanwhile, the SMC received 141 complaints against 161 doctors last year. The report said this was a six-year low. The council deliberated on 350 complaints last year and carried forward 198 cases to be looked into this year.

It concluded 14 disciplinary and health-committee hearings last year. As a result, seven doctors were fined and censured; one was removed from the Register and can no longer practise; one was censured and suspended; and one was allowed to practise, but under close supervision.

Three of the 14 cases were discontinued; the last case involved an appeal to the Supreme Court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore has record 13,006 doctors'. Subscribe