More health workers quit amid hospital personnel shortages

SINGAPORE: The country is facing rising resignation rates among healthcare professionals amid a personnel shortage in hospitals.

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary revealed that about 1,500 healthcare workers quit in the first half of 2021, compared to about 2,000 annually pre-pandemic. Of this number, nearly 500 foreign doctors and nurses resigned in the first half of 2021 alone, compared to around 500 in 2020 and 600 in 2019. The rationales reported behind these departures ranged from personal reasons to migration to the need to return to their respective home countries.

Dr. Puthucheary added that many nurses, doctors, therapists, and social workers have been re-deployed for urgent tasks, emphasising that this is already taking a toll despite the excellent services the health workers have been providing.

Nurses have rotated shifts in some hospitals to accommodate workloads. However, he mentioned that many of them have not taken their leave since 2020, with more than 90% unable to use their accumulated leave this year.

Dr. Puthucheary noted that hospitals need 382 ICU beds for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. As a response, MOH will boost ICU capacity by ramping up the current 219 to 280 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in the coming week. There is also a need for health workers to undergo training to operate special ICU equipment and devices.

The minister also studied the current intensive care unit capacity of the hospitals, saying an increase in manpower capacity must accompany the move to increase ICU beds, “The issue is when we increase the number of beds, we stretch and stretch our healthcare workers. We will come to the point when they can no longer provide that level of continuous excellent care.”

The Ministry of Health has called for more volunteers in the SG Healthcare Corps, has coordinated with private hospitals to aid public hospital workers, and has boosted recruitment from abroad in efforts to address this concern.

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