Undoubtedly, the healthcare sector is the most burdened in Singapore at the moment, given the massive efforts underway to slow down the progress of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In light of this, Melvin Yong, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, spoke in Parliament during the?Ministry of Health (MOH), Committee of Supply Debate to call for more to be done to reduce the attrition of our healthcare workers, particularly nurses.

Noting that about 850 nurses leave the public healthcare sector yearly, he said this happens for a variety of reasons. According to MOH, some leave due to family commitments, further studies, or a desire to change their work environments.

"Worryingly, they tend to be experienced nurses who have a long career runway ahead of them. In the past five years, nurses who have left the public healthcare sector have an average of seven years in service," he added.

As such, MP Yong shared three ideas on how to address the issues nurses face at the workplace:

1. Recruit more healthcare workers and bring in more local talent

"Perhaps MOH could consider recruiting more mid-career nurses in their 50s and place them in wards that are suitable for them," MP Yong said.

2. Retain more healthcare workers

According to Rahimah Bahri, a Nurse Manager at the National University Hospital, some of her colleagues do leave because of the high workload and perceived slow progression in the nursing industry.

MP Yong shared: "We should do more to address such feedback and incentivise more nurses to remain in the profession."

3. Encourage more to return to nursing

Despite best efforts to attract nurses back to nursing, only around 400 return to practice annually. For MP Yong's dialogue with nurses, he found that some do not return because they feel that their skills are out of touch.

To address this, the Healthcare Services Employees? Union (HSEU) is in partnership talks with Homage Singapore, a technology platform that matches licensed and trained care professionals to those in need of care, to explore freelance opportunities for nurses and caregivers.

The Union is also discussing how to provide training to these nurses through its Healthcare Academy.

However, he noted: "We also need to consider potential changes to job fit as the life stages of our nurses change. Some are unable to work shift hours, nor wish to return to high-intensity clinical wards."

Photo / Melvin Yong's Facebook?-?Newton NC Healthcare Workers Appreciation Day (8 March 2020)