MOHH, the holding company of Singapore’s public healthcare clusters said in response to TODAY’s queries that it is seeking to hire 180 junior doctors from India over the next three years. This plan was “uncovered” when Prof Jeremy Lim from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health shared a screenshot of MOHH recruiting doctors from India. Prof Lim lamented that most of the responses to his revelation were racist and immature. His real concern was, why is it that our 3 top medical schools here can’t produce enough doctors to suit our country’s needs at the “right price points”.
Why indeed. It is understandable that a developed country might need to import unskilled labour and mercenaries from developing countries, but does any developed country boasting world class healthcare and medical schools go all out to recruit junior doctors from developing countries notorious for fake degrees? Isn’t it like China importing Chinese teachers from Singapore?
We are all proud that Singapore has a good reputation for world class medical care. Tourists consult our doctors because they are trusted to be good. So, do you expect wealthy Indians who come to Singapore for medical treatment to want to see the doctors we imported from their own country? Why shortchange our own people?
|Total No. of Doctors 1||13,386||13,766||14,279|
|► Not in Active Practice||706||722||810|
|Doctor to Population Ratio||1:419||1:410||1:399|
|Doctor per 1,000 Population||2.4||2.4||2.5|
|No. of Specialists||5,338||5,615||5,881|
|► Not in Active Practice||287||309||335|
When I was growing up, private clinics were few and they were as busy as the polyclinics. But today, the public hospitals and clinics are still packed but the workload at private clinics has dropped very significantly. Over the years, the number of private GP clinics has grown at an amazing pace. Is it “healthy” to have only twice the number of doctors in public service as in private practice? Personally, I think we have too many doctors in private practice, so much so that many of them are struggling. Since it’s a jungle out there, it shouldn’t take a lot of enticement to retain doctors in public service. Why do they still leave? Do they have any grievances? Has the administration made any attempt to retain our own doctors in public service?
The numbers in India are a little less reliable. One source says that the doctor/patient ratio there is 1.34 doctors for every 1,000 patients, a little better than WHO’s standard of 1:1,000. However, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare of India, Dr. Bharati Pravin Pawar has claimed that the Indian doctor’s population of 1:854, is way better than the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s standard. The Indian minister said that there is no dearth of doctors in the country. This means (if you believe in their numbers) that Prof Lim’s concern about Singapore draining India’s “scarce resources” is unfounded. Frankly, I’m not convinced and quite selfishly, I’m not really concerned about draining India’s resources. I’m more concerned about the standard of public healthcare in Singapore relying more and more on foreign manpower. But as Prof Lim pointed out, this is not new. For years, we have been hiring foreign doctors and nurses who find our wages attractive. I’m not sure if all this can improve the standards of care in Singapore, but it’s quite likely to clear patients faster at the “budget terminal”. But somehow, it’s still not fast enough. Why? Perhaps even the foreign doctors and nurses are leaving because working conditions here are not what they had expected.
For the longest time, we have been exploiting cheap foreign labour to keep wages and business costs low. Nowadays, even doctors have to be cheaper, better, faster.