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Colleagues, friends, nurses,

Ladies and gentlemen


       Thank you very much. Some days ago, we were at the Istana, celebrating the recipients of the President’s Award for Nurses. I saw a big group of SingHealth nurses. One of the nurses, who may well be in this audience, asked, “Minister Ong, what would the Ministry of Health (MOH) really do to support us?”.


2.             My answer, which is a sincere one, is that we must make sure we have enough capacity to take care of all the patients who come to us. Post COVID-19, the workload has gone up, and there are many reasons why. But post-COVID is different from pre-COVID, even though there are very few COVID-19 patients now. What we are going to do is to increase capacity. In the long term, there will be new hospitals. Healthier SG will hopefully keep people healthier and away from hospitalisation.


3.             In the short term, from now to the end of the year, we are going to do a few things. One, we will open some new beds. No new hospitals will open except for one ward in Woodlands Health. But other than that, we are going through all the hospitals, finding space and creative ways to put in more beds.


4.             All three clusters are working on Mobile Inpatient Care @ Home (MIC@Home). Add them all together, and we hope to be able to come up with close to 400 beds. That is equivalent to half a regional hospital. Where we can, we are also opening more community hospitals and nursing homes, and expanding transitional care facilities (TCFs). If all these open, and we are successful in transferring some of our social stayers into this transitional capacity, we will also free up acute beds.


5.             All in, we will create about 800 beds, equivalent to one regional hospital. Hopefully in total (including stepdown and rehabilitation care), we can come up with capacity equivalent to one and a half regional hospitals by the end of the year.


6.             But with beds, we will also need doctors and especially nurses in our hospitals. We are recruiting vigorously since the beginning of the year, with the help of everyone. We target there will be 4,000 nurses hired this year – 3,000 for the public sector and 1,000 for the private sector. This is 40% more than usual because we want to replace those we lost during COVID-19, and then top up some. Since the first half of the year, the public sector alone has recruited about 2,000 nurses. We hope that by the end of the year, the public sector alone would have recruited close to 4,000 nurses. Adding on the private sector, I think we can exceed the 4,000 target.


7.             The recruitment of foreign nurses is also in process, thanks to the leadership of Chief Nursing Officer Paulin Koh and SingHealth Group Chief Nurse Tracy Carol Ayre. They have done a fantastic job in revamping the process to drastically shorten the time between hiring and starting work.


8.             We must also continue to hire local nurses. You would have heard that new nurses who join us this year, regardless of institution, will get a sign-on bonus of $15,000. These will be paid out in the first two years. We will backdate it and whoever joined since January 2023 will be eligible.


9.             It is also very important to keep our existing nurses, retain you, and make sure we send a strong signal to you. Therefore we are implementing a retention incentive. We are inspired by the SAF, which has a retention incentive called the SAVER scheme. In the Ministry of Education, there is a similar scheme for teachers, called the CONNECT scheme. Now we are implementing a retentive scheme for nurses. I cannot tell you the details yet, but if you talk to people in the SAF and MOE, they will tell you that these schemes are significant, to let you build a career in the public healthcare system.


10.          My great thanks to all our healthcare workers, especially our nurses, on Nurses Day. This year, I have gone through an operation myself and I have seen how you care for patients and how you really make people feel at ease, even when they are in pain. I learned when I was serving kueh pie tee with SingHealth Chairman Cheng Wai Keung that sometimes, the food may be the same but it is all in the service. Thank you.

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