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Impact of COVID-19 on Resignation and Recruitment of Healthcare Professionals


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Tan Wu Meng
MP for Jurong GRC

Question No. 2224

To ask the Minister for Health (a) how many (i) nurses and (ii) allied health professionals left the public sector in 2021 broken down quarterly; (b) how these numbers compare with the preceding three years; and (c) how many nurses and allied health professionals (i) remain employed in Singapore in a professional healthcare capacity (ii) remain employed but outside the healthcare sector (iii) are in Singapore but have stopped working or (iv) have left Singapore, respectively.


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Abdul Samad
Nominated Member of Parliament

Question No. 2161

To ask the Minister for Health with regard to the 1,500 healthcare workers who resigned in the first half of 2021 (a) what is the breakdown by age, job title and years of experience; and (b) whether there were efforts to convince them to stay on when such resignation notice was initiated.

Written Answer

About 1,500 doctors, nurses and allied health professionals had resigned from our public healthcare institutions in the first half of 2021, which was a 4% resignation rate. Full year data for 2021 is not yet available. But if we do a simple extrapolation and assume 3,000 resignations for the year, this means roughly an 8% attrition rate for these groups. We expect that the data for the second half of the year will show an improvement as it usually does with new inflow.

As for the overall public healthcare workforce in 2018 and 2020, the resignation numbers were 4,600 and 3,700 respectively. So resignations were generally on a downward trend before 2021.

Members have asked for a breakdown of the resignations by age. Amongst the 1,500 nurses, allied health professionals and doctors from our public healthcare institutions who resigned in the first half of 2021, more than half of them were aged 30 to 39 years, a quarter were aged 20 to 29 years and the rest were 40 and above. This is roughly in line with the age profile of our public healthcare workforce.

Members also asked if the resigned staff stayed in the wider healthcare sector. Based on self-declarations of registered nurses and Allied Health Professionals, 90% were employed in the healthcare sector and less than 1% were employed in other sectors. The remaining were either not working, or overseas at the time.

As for recruitment, the number of newly recruited nurses and allied health professionals was on the uptrend from 1,900 in 2018 to 2,300 in 2020, and we have been experiencing a net inflow and growing of the public healthcare workforce.

However, for the first half of 2021, the number of new recruits was about 1,300, slightly below the number of resignations. MOH is working closely with our public healthcare institutions to shore up recruitment, for both local and foreign staff, to augment the healthcare workforce.

The COVID-19 crisis has stressed the system tremendously. But because of our vaccination programme, safe management measures and collective co-operation and trust we place in each other, the healthcare system was not overwhelmed. Some of our good foreign staff were poached by other countries, some resigned, and recruitment of nurses, especially foreign nurses, has been challenging due to the strong international demand.

That is the reality of the situation caused by the pandemic. The market for nursing manpower is now subject to global competition. That is why we have always emphasised on the need to protect our healthcare system, and our healthcare workforce, and not subject them to excessive stress and demands.

And our population has responded, by getting their vaccinations and boosters, and bear with the safe management measures to reduce transmission. We all deeply appreciate the work of our healthcare workers during the pandemic crisis, and our healthcare workers in turn is grateful for the co-operation of our population to protect our healthcare system.

We don’t take the position that let’s open up all activities and let the healthcare system bear the brunt of it. Nor do we protect the healthcare system at all cost and subject the country to a severe social and border lock down. Our ability to take a middle path approach, is the hallmark of a high trust society.
To retain staff better, our public healthcare institutions have stepped up their outreach to staff on the well-being and support measures available to them. This includes counselling services, staff helplines, and peer support programmes.

When presented with a resignation notice, supervisors will speak with the staff to understand the reasons for leaving and discuss if there are other ways in which the institution might be able to render support. This includes encouraging staff to take a period of leave to attend to personal matters, offering part-time or other flexible work arrangements or exploring alternative jobs within the cluster.

However, there may still be instances whereby after exploring various options, the staff may still prefer to resign. In such cases, the public healthcare institutions would respect their wishes.

MOH will continue with our efforts to recruit and build up a local core within our healthcare workforce to meet our future needs by improving the awareness of the professions and growing the local training pipelines for both fresh graduates and mid-career entrants. MOH has also put in place measures to better retain our healthcare workers, such as through salary enhancements over the years to ensure that our public healthcare institutions’ pay remains competitive.

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