Sunday 16 September 2012

Non-medical public health-care staff to get pay rise

By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2012

ABOUT 16,000 non-medical public health-care workers will have their pay packages increased at the end of the month.

The raises, which range from 4 per cent to 10 per cent, are possible because of savings resulting from higher productivity.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said one example was the use of Calypso chairs by the Institute of Mental Health to get immobile patients from the bed to the bathroom. Now, it requires just one person, not two, to do the job.

Aside from saving five hours a day, the chairs have reduced the number of patients falling by 10 per cent, Mr Gan said yesterday at the launch of the Healthcare Cluster Tripartite Workgroup at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

He added: "Rising expectations for public health services mean that the work of our administrative, ancillary and support staff has become more demanding and complex."

He said the wage increase was aimed at retaining high-performing staff, and motivating them to remain committed.

He said that with greater productivity, "it is important to share part of the gains with the staff who have contributed to deriving them, to sustain employee involvement and good labour relations".

This rounds off pay increases for public hospital workers, which started with a 4 per cent to 20 per cent raise in April for medical staff - doctors, nurses and allied health-care professionals. It is part of the Healthcare 2020 masterplan announced in Parliament on obtaining and retaining good health-care workers.

The tripartite workgroup - comprising the Healthcare Services Employees' Union, the Health Ministry and the six public hospital clusters - hopes to continue raising productivity and providing employees with more meaningful work and better pay.

The union's executive secretary Patrick Tay thanked Mr Gan for this month's raise but added that the workgroup plans to help about 2,000 workers earning $1,700 or less monthly to push up their base pay by 10 per cent to 20 per cent by the end of 2014.

The increase will be the result of higher productivity, skills upgrading and job redesign.

One beneficiary is enrolled nurse Angeline Kwa, 26. She joined KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) in 2007, after her O levels, as a specialist clinic assistant earning $1,200 a month. She took a hospital-sponsored course to be an enrolled nurse earning $1,600 monthly.

And she is still on an upward trajectory: She plans to be a registered nurse, and will attend a 21/2-year course at Nanyang Polytechnic, sponsored by KKH.

Mr Tay spoke of how the union's courses helped more than 1,500 people get jobs in health care. He said that in the next eight years, the sector will need to recruit 35,000 more staff.

Following the launch, Mr Gan and Mr Lim Swee Say, secretary- general of the National Trades Union Congress, toured the exhibits on the best productivity ideas from the six hospital clusters.

Quicker, safer, better
Hospitals share ideas on improving work efficiency
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2012

SIX health-care clusters showcased how they tackled inefficiencies through innovations and best practices at an exhibition yesterday.

The occasion was the launch of the Healthcare Cluster Tripartite Workgroup at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).

Among the ideas was a linen trolley from KTPH. Previously, when a patient was discharged or needed a change of clothes, someone had to go to the linen room to get what was needed.

Now, every ward has a linen trolley containing everything from bedsheets to pyjamas.

KK Women's and Children's Hospital highlighted its Electronic Meal Ordering System.

Instead of taking down patients' orders on forms and inputting the information into the kitchen computer, staff now get the work done on a hand-held device. The orders are then downloaded into the kitchen system.

This method has reduced the time taken to get all orders from one ward - from one to 1-1/2 hours, to about 35 minutes. It also makes it easier to do last-minute changes.

The Institute of Mental Health's Calypso chair might well find its way to all nursing homes.

The seat of the chair can be placed on the bed so that a bedridden patient can roll onto it, before being lifted into a sitting position on the chair. The chair is pushed to, say, the bathroom where the patient is bathed. The reverse occurs on the return to the bed.

Previously, two people were needed to lift such a patient onto a wheelchair. With the Calypso, only one person is required, saving five hours a day, and reducing patient falls by 10 per cent.

It has also minimised backache among health attendants caused by lifting heavy patients.

The two ministers at the event - Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say - agreed that the Calypso chair would be useful in nursing homes.

Mr Lim, also secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, suggested collating orders and carrying out a bulk purchase to get a better price for the chair - from Europe - which retails for $4,000.

Mr Gan added that "it is worth it" just for having one person do the work, instead of two.

The Singapore General Hospital has equipped its 167 porters with mobile devices. Requests to transfer patients or send blood samples and documents are now done electronically instead of by fax.

Porters used to return to the headquarters after every job to find out details of the next one. Now, they check their mobile devices for assignments.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital has trained its nurses to use hand-held devices for various tasks, including tracking surgical equipment, leading to savings of 10 hours a day.

The National University Hospital offered something different - it split one job into two.

Patient Care Associates now help doctors with case notes and bookings while Patient Service Associates handle patient registration and billing.

This has led to better job performance and satisfaction, as well as an 8 per cent drop in the number of people leaving.

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