Nurses highly skilled: PM

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised on Sunday for a footnote in the Population White Paper which labelled nursing a low-skilled job.

Describing nurses as highly skilled and professional, he said of the mistake: "It is very unfortunate that the footnote slipped through. It should never have been there."

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is in charge of population matters, also apologised over the matter during the parliamentary debate on the White Paper.

PM Lee said: "I should say that I am sorry that it happened too, because I know how important the nurses are in hospitals."

He recounted how, after being diagnosed with lymphoma in 1992 and needing chemotherapy, it was a nurse specialist who administered drugs to him.

They are the best people for special procedures like drawing blood, he added.

"They are trained... and they are critical to the whole system."

Nurses also have difficult tasks like making patients comfortable, and connecting with and encouraging them, he noted.

PM Lee's remarks, made after a visit to Tan Tock Seng Hospital on the first day of the Chinese New Year, come amid a furore over the footnote.

But he said that the visit was planned earlier.

In a Facebook entry later, he called the 200 nurses, doctors and hospital staff he visited "silent warriors" who work around the clock while the rest of Singapore enjoyed the holiday.

He also paid tribute to other workers doing essential work, such as bus drivers and checkpoints officers. The post has drawn some 4,000 likes.

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