Private to public sector for this doc

Private to public sector for this doc

After working in the private sector for more than five years, she returned to public service, a move that is rare among doctors.

Dr Chin Khong Ling, 37, a senior family physician with the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, prefers handling older patients and learning to treat their chronic conditions.

The case mix that she handles in a polyclinic setting also helps her to be a better teacher of undergraduate medical students at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said Dr Chin, who made the change last July.

She teaches at the NUS twice a week.

Dr Chin declined to reveal her salary, but said she did not take a pay cut as her polyclinic pay was equivalent to what she was paid as a private doctor.

As a GP with Healthway Medical Group, she worked eight-hour days and attended to between 50 and 60 patients daily.

As a polyclinic doctor, the workload and hours are about the same, but now there is greater variety in her cases.

When told about the 20 per cent increase in the pay of public-sector doctors, she said it would help junior doctors whose salaries have not increased significantly over the years.

It may also help to retain those who have recently finished their medical officer bond.

Workload

Having more doctors will help to lighten the workload and prevent it from getting increasingly heavy, which is what drives some doctors to go to the private sector, said Dr Chin, who has been a doctor since 1998.

But the pay increase may not attract senior doctors back into the public sector because they did not leave because of pay in the first place.

Dr Chin said there are various factors for doctors in deciding whether to go into the public or private sector.

While private GPs have more control over workflow, the type of cases they handle is limited as most of their patients are working adults whose fees are paid by their employers, said Dr Chin.

Sometimes doctors get tired of running their own practices, so they shut it down and become public sector employees, she added.

When she decided to go back to the public sector, her family members and her husband - a specialist in a public hospital - thought she was "crazy", said Dr Chin, who is not yet a mother.

"Eventually, they said, 'Go ahead if that's what you like doing, but don't kill yourself doing it,'" said Dr Chin with a laugh.

Mr Daniel Kalai, 35, an entrepreneur, disagrees with the increase.

He said: "The majority of Singaporeans would rather have lower costs to bear. By trying to increase we just cause future problems over the wage expectations of doctors.

"How can we ensure that we really get doctors who are not in it for the money, but for the passion of serving lives?"

On the other hand, Mr Ivan Choong, 33, who works in customer service, thinks the pay increase is justifiable if it encourages more people to become doctors in the public sector.

He said: "We are moving towards an ageing population - there will be an increased need for doctors and nurses.

"However, the increase should be across the board to include other staff members and nurses too."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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