NOTICE PAPER NO. 890
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Wan Rizal
MP for Jalan Besar GRC
Question No. 2286
To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether the Ministry will consider implementing for healthcare workers (i) a minimum and maximum number of hours worked in a week (ii) a maximum number of call backs for those on leave or time-off and (iii) a guaranteed leave or time-off; and (b) how does the Ministry strike a balance between managing manpower resources for spikes in COVID-19 cases and allowing employees to go on leave.
The broad terms of employment for unionised public healthcare staff are set out in Collective Agreements negotiated between each of the public healthcare clusters and the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union. These agreements are re-negotiated and updated every two to three years.
Staff who are covered under the Collective Agreements have a stipulated maximum of 38 to 42 hours per week, depending on whether the worker is engaged in shift work. Any work hours in excess of these would be entitled to overtime pay. Staff are also entitled to a given number of rest days within their work-rest cycle and also to paid annual leave.
For junior doctors employed by MOH Holdings (MOHH), the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), MOH, and the Specialists Accreditation Board (SAB) have guidelines on working hours, rest days and night calls etc. to ensure the well-being of junior doctors. One of the guidelines stipulate that when averaged out over a month, the total work hours per week of junior doctors should not exceed 80 hours. Departments are required to comply with these guidelines for residents and Medical Officers. These guidelines aim to balance the well-being of junior doctors with their training requirements. Like other employers, MOHH is responsible for providing paid annual leave to its employees, including junior doctors.
The Ministry does not impose a hard cap on the number of working hours and number of call backs, or enforce mandatory taking of annual leave. As the recent COVID-19 surge has shown, there will be times when there are exigencies of service that public healthcare clusters need to manage.
To strike a balance between maintaining sufficient manpower reserves for COVID-19 work and allowing staff to take time off, public healthcare clusters are encouraged to allow staff to rest and recharge by taking days off whenever possible. About two thirds of staff in our public healthcare institutions were able to clear their annual leave. Only less than one-third could not fully clear their accumulated leave in 2021. When there is a need to manage workload during surges, clusters have hired additional manpower and reduced non-urgent and non-life-threatening care treatments. MOH has also worked on measures such as redeploying swabbers who have been freed up after the change in testing protocols to public healthcare institutions, calling for more volunteers to join the SG Healthcare Corps, and tapping on the private healthcare sector.