More signing up for eldercare classes

SINGAPORE - Community hospitals and nursing homes are sending more staff to be trained in eldercare skills in a bid to boost standards and also attract and retain workers.

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) Learning Institute, which conducts such classes, held 110 runs of these courses with more than 3,800 places from April last year to March this year.

This is a jump of more than 70 per cent in training places compared with the same period from 2010 to last year.

Given the hiring difficulties that intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) providers face, it is hoped that the greater availability of training schemes could go some way in changing the perception that the jobs are a dead end.

The manpower need is pressing because more than 100 eldercare facilities will be built within communities over the next three years as the population ages.

There are 4,000 workers in the ILTC sector, but another 11,000 are needed from now till 2020 "to adequately staff new health-care facilities in the community", said a Health Ministry spokesman.

Industry leaders said the spike in enrolment in courses is linked to greater awareness of such training, a growing range of courses and employers' willingness to upgrade worker skills.

Participants from ILTC institutions who are Singaporeans or permanent residents get an 80 per cent subsidy on course fees. Foreigners get a 40 per cent subsidy.

Popular courses include those on palliative and end-of-life care, fall prevention and wound care.

Courses were developed after an analysis of the industry's needs, said Ms Lynda Soong, AIC's community care development division chief.

AIC, which comes under the Ministry of Health and which oversees the long-term care sector, also continually rolls out new courses. Last month, a new scholarship was launched for health-care professionals in the ILTC sector to pursue a degree in nursing or any allied health discipline.

AIC also works with industry partners. Recently, with Tsao Foundation's Hua Mei Training Academy, it rolled out a certificate in community gerontological nursing programme.

Employers are also taking the lead in training staff. A group of nursing homes have collectively agreed to commit 20 hours of training a year for each staff member.

Before the inception of the AIC Learning Institute, there was no structured training for long-term care workers, said Ms Soong.

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