Saturday, 22 October 2016

30,000 more healthcare workers needed by 2020 as population ages: MOH 2020 Healthcare Manpower Plan

By Sara Grosse, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Oct 2016

The Ministry of Health (MOH) launched a manpower plan on Thursday (Oct 20) in the hopes of attracting more Singaporeans to take up careers in the healthcare industry and ensure they are well-equipped.

The Health Ministry estimated that an estimated 30,000 more healthcare workers would be needed by 2020 to meet the demands of an ageing population.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, launching the 2020 Healthcare Manpower Plan on Thursday, said the plan aimed to meet the growth in demand for healthcare and sustain good salaries for workers.

The plan consists of three strategies: Equipping the healthcare workforce with relevant skillsets to prepare for the evolving healthcare needs of an ageing population, growing a strong local core by investing in fresh school leavers as well as mid-career entrants and improving the work environment and patient experience with technology.

The initiatives to equip healthcare workers with better skills include a new SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme in gerontology nursing, which will be introduced by Nanyang Polytechnic from December 2016 to give new nursing graduates the opportunity to undergo on-the-job training.

More doctors are also being trained in the community, with a 30 per cent increase in family medicine trainees expected by 2019, the Health Ministry said.

To build a strong Singaporean core in the healthcare industry, MOH said scholarships and sponsorships would be available for young Singaporeans to pursue healthcare training programmes at both local and overseas institutions.

Mid-career professionals will be supported through several initiatives, including an enhanced healthcare professional conversion programme which will provide participants with a training allowance during their courses of study.

Another initiative is the Return to Nursing programme, which will see former nurses undergo a refresher course before starting work.

The Healthcare Manpower Plan's third strategy, to leverage technology to improve productivity in the sector, includes partnering healthcare providers to improve processes, adopt new technologies, expand job roles and review rules and regulations.

"In tandem with our aspirations to become a Smart Nation, public healthcare institutions are endeavouring to deliver more efficient and productive services through the use of technology," MOH stated in documents distributed on the plan.

Mr Gan described the transformation of the healthcare workforce "as a journey that we need to embark together – as leaders, as healthcare workers, as patients and caregivers (and) as individuals".

"Only if we all share the same vision of what a good healthcare system is for tomorrow is, and what the important skills and career options are, can we build a healthcare system that will serve Singaporeans well for many more years to come," the Health Minister said.

Paradigm shift in healthcare
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2016

The healthcare system here is undergoing a paradigm shift.

The Health Ministry has drawn up a sensible plan for the coming decades, taking in the limitations of a shrinking workforce coupled with a rapidly growing need for eldercare services as the population ages.

The road map includes tapping technology to raise productivity and reduce the need for manpower. But the real challenge to the system is to keep demand for services down.

But to this, too, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has an answer. He spoke of the need to "aggressively" promote health and preventive health services.

Singapore has been doing this quite well in the past, resulting in people here living some of the longest lives, behind only a handful of countries such as Japan, and more importantly, with more of the longer lives translating into healthy years.

But while he outlined in detail two of three major shifts needed - to move much of healthcare from hospital to home and community, and tap technology for more efficient care - he barely skimmed the subject of keeping people healthier for longer.

Yes, preventive health is great. In fact, it is a no-brainer. If everyone can stay healthy for just a few months more, the demand for healthcare services would fall significantly.

As is always the case, the devil is in the details. In this case, there were no details. Are there any concrete plans? Or was it merely rhetoric?

Perhaps the launch of the Healthcare Manpower Plan 2020 was the wrong platform for going into the details of this.

But this could be the most important of the three major shifts Mr Gan said is needed to keep healthcare here on track. If it can be successfully tackled, the need for manpower in the sector would be much less than projected. There will still be good jobs, but not the crying need that looms.

So while what has been announced is important, what has yet to be outlined will be even more so.

Preparing mid-career PMETs for community care sector
Integrated care agency hopes to draw more via training scheme
By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2016

Given his previous work experience, one might not expect Mr Darren Thng to end up working for a community hospital.

The 46-year-old, now a manager in the chief executive's office at Bright Vision Hospital, had been managing a German subsidiary in China that built musical fountains.

But he now puts his experience to good use in a different setting.

"I used to oversee the operations of the whole company, but now I assist the CEO and director in running the hospital," said Mr Thng, who came back to Singapore a year ago. "The managerial skills are almost the same, but the services we provide are different."

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), which coordinates healthcare services for seniors here, helps mid-career professionals like Mr Thng with the transition to new jobs in the community care sector.

Through its Senior Management Associate Scheme started this year, the agency hopes to attract professionals, managers, executives and technicians to join the sector.

Participants attend a training programme that provides an overview of the sector, as well as short-term attachment programmes with community care groups. For instance, they join volunteers in delivering meals to seniors who live alone and accompany patients on hospital visits.

The AIC then follows up on their progress. Seven people who joined the sector - including Mr Thng - have gone through the training.

Ms Teo Sio Hoon, chief of intermediate- and long-term care at the AIC's manpower development and resourcing division, said professionals with managerial and operational experience are in demand, given the growing community care sector, which includes community hospitals and senior care centres.

"The programme is meant to prepare and assimilate them into their new jobs," she said. "Coming from a corporate background, you may realise that you have all the work skills, but the setting in this sector is very different.

"In a corporation, the bottom line is the key thing, but in community care, while we are conscious of cost, the welfare of patients is more important in making decisions."

Last week, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said more healthcare workers will be needed with the expansion of primary and community care. To build a stronger local core in the healthcare sector, training and recruitment will be expanded to enable young job seekers and mid-career entrants, among others, to get work in healthcare.

Mr Soon Cheok Seng, 58, who previously worked as a senior business analyst for Motorola, said the training helped him to understand the nature and expectations of his current job.

Mr Soon, now IT manager at Ling Kwang Home for Senior Citizens, said: "The focus is different. If you want to work in this sector, you have to realise it's more about giving back to society. Pay becomes secondary."

Bright Vision Hospital CEO Chua Puay Hian said Mr Thng and Ms Doris Tan, 55, who both underwent the training and now work at the hospital, are doing well. "We are happy that both have had extensive work experiences across Singapore and Asia and are putting their work and life skills to good use here," he said.

2020 Healthcare Manpower Plan
Launch of 2020 Healthcare Manpower Plan At Second National Seminar on Productivity in Healthcare

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