More healthcare workers in S'pore resigning amid growing fatigue as Covid-19 drags on

SINGAPORE – Resignation rates among healthcare workers are going up, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said on Monday (Nov 1).

In the first half of the year, around 1,500 healthcare workers have resigned so far, compared to 2,000 annually pre-pandemic, he said.

“Foreign healthcare workers have also resigned in bigger number, especially when they are unable to travel to see their families back home,” he added.

So far, close to 500 foreign doctors and nurses have resigned in the first half of the year, compared to around 500 in the whole of 2020 and about 600 in 2019.

“These resignations were mostly tendered for personal reasons, for migration, or moving back to their home countries,” he said in a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday.

Dr Puthucheary noted that for healthcare workers, it has been over 20 months of continuous daily battle against the pandemic, with a large proportion of them having unable to take leave since 2020.

Over 90 per of them will not be able to clear their accumulated leave for 2021, he noted.

“This is a higher proportion compared to the past two years. Our healthcare workers have gone way beyond the call of duty to care for their patients,” he added.

For the month of September, nurses worked for an average of 160 to 175 hours per month.

“I received a WhatsApp message from a senior member of the clinical teams: ‘We are getting increasingly stretched, overworked and fatigued… We are uncertain how long we can keep this up. Morale is slipping’.”

Another colleague sent the following message: “It feels like what started as a 2.4k run became a marathon, and just as we are reaching the finishing line, we have to run a second marathon. Our people are exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally – whether they will admit it or not.”

With healthcare workers being continuously overstretched, it is “not surprising” to find resignation rates going up this year.

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) is actively redeploying its manpower, to serve as healthcare or patient care assistants at its institutions, he said.

“We are reaching out to more volunteers to join the SG Healthcare Corps and support this important work. We are collaborating with private hospitals to help ease some of the load on healthcare workers in our public hospitals. We are stepping up recruitment of healthcare workers from overseas,” said Dr Puthucheary.

He added that public healthcare institutions have also stepped up their outreach to staff on support measures to safeguard their well-being.

This includes providing counselling services, staff helplines, and peer support programmes.

In response to a question raised by Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) regarding hospital departments factoring in sick leave as one of the indicators of work performance, Dr Puthucheary said that these were previously isolated incidents, and the practice has since been ceased.

“Healthcare workers who are concerned about the way sick leave affects their performance appraisals can approach their union, the Ministry of Manpower or MOH for assistance,” he added.

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