Sharp rise in numbers to be trained in health care

PHOTO: Sharp rise in numbers to be trained in health care

To meet the demands of an ageing population, the number of people set to be trained in health care here will increase by more than 50 per cent - from the current 2,520 a year to 3,810.

The bulk - 2,700 a year, up from the current 1,747 - will be nurses. The number of locally trained doctors will also rise, from 336 a year to 500. There will also be more dentists (from 48 now to 80), pharmacists (164 to 240) and therapists (225 to 290) a year.

The numbers were released yesterday in an occasional paper by the National Population and Talent Division. It did not set a date for when these numbers will be achieved, except to say this was a "target intake".

The paper estimated that, all in, Singapore will need 91,000 health-care workers in 2030, up from 50,000 last year.

The 41,000 increase comprises 32,000 health-care professionals and 9,000 lower-level support staff.

The majority of the 32,000 professionals - 23,000 - will be filled by Singaporeans and permanent residents, and the remaining 9,000 by foreigners.

When it comes to health-care support staff, 6,000 out of the projected 9,000 extra needed will be foreigners.

A Health Ministry spokesman said these support staff are "crucial", and they will help provide safe and good quality care in community hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.

More foreign maids will also be needed to help older people stay in the community instead of being placed in institutions.

The paper said the maids can "provide care-giving services for the elderly in the familiar environment of their own home with their family and friends".

It projected the number of maids here rising to 300,000, up from 198,000 last year.

To help more Singaporeans afford a maid, the Government gives a $95 rebate off the $265 maid levy for households with at least one person over the age of 65. Poorer households can get a $120-a-month grant to offset the cost of having a maid.

Dr Lam Pin Min, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said it was "inevitable" that foreigners would be needed in the health-care industry, given the time taken to train staff.

He added: "I hope the ministry will ensure that such foreign health-care workers come from reliable sources with high standards of training and professionalism, and have a decent command of English to facilitate quick assimilation and easy communication with the locals."

The Health Ministry spokesman said overseas-trained doctors and nurses from non-English language schools have to meet minimum standards in English proficiency before they are allowed to practise here.

"Their language skills are also monitored closely during supervision to ensure that patient care is not compromised," she said.

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