SINGAPORE, Nov 1 — Resignations among healthcare workers have gone up in the first half of this year under the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Putucheary today.

Giving an update in Parliament on the current situation in the intensive care units and hospitals, Dr Puthucheary said about 1,500 healthcare workers have resigned in the first half of 2021 alone, compared to about 2,000 annually pre-pandemic.

More foreign healthcare workers have also resigned with the ministry receiving close to 500 resignations from foreign doctors and nurses in the first half of 2021, up from around 500 in 2020 and around 600 in 2019.

“These resignations were mostly tendered for personal reasons, for migration, or moving back to their home countries,” said Dr Puthucheary.

He added that signs of fatigue can be seen among healthcare workers who have battled the pandemic for the past 20 months.

A large proportion of these workers have also not had the opportunity to take leave since 2020, and over 90 per cent of them will not be able to clear their accumulated leave for 2021. This is a higher proportion compared to the past two years.

MOH Holdings recently announced that healthcare workers could apply for overseas leave to travel to countries under the recently implemented vaccinated travel lane.

“Our healthcare workers have gone way beyond the call of duty to care for their patients. The hospitals are trying to minimise having staff work overtime,” said Dr Puthucheary.

He pointed out that for the month of September, nurses worked for an average of 160 to 175 hours per month.

To combat the manpower crunch, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is actively redeploying manpower to serve as healthcare of patient care assistants at health institutions.

It is also stepping up recruitment of healthcare workers from overseas.

“Our public healthcare institutions have also stepped up their outreach to staff on support measures to safeguard their well-being. This includes providing counselling services, staff helplines, and peer support programmes,” said Dr Puthucheary.

Responding to a question by Dr Tan Wu Meng, Member of Parliament from Jurong Group Representation Constituency, who asked about hospital departments factoring factoring in sick leave as one of the indicators of work performance, Dr Puthucheary assured that though there have been previously isolated incidents, this practice has ceased.

He added that healthcare workers who are concerned about the way sick leave affects their performance appraisals can approach their union, MOH, or the Manpower Ministry for assistance. — TODAY