Chee made these remarks when responding to a question by Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who asked about whether the ratio of healthcare workers to population was affecting the quality of the treatment they could provide.
In 2014, Singapore had 21 doctors and 69 nurses per 10,000 people. With this result far below the ratio in OECD countries, Perera asked whether the 2020 recruitment target was due to this alleged shortcoming.
Chee refuted this, saying that additional workers were being brought in to take care of Singapore’s ageing population in the future.
“We always plan ahead, we always anticipate,” he said. “We build ahead of demand, we deal with the situation before the problem emerges.”
The Ministry has three main strategies to strengthen the workforce within the healthcare sector, Chee said.
First, it hopes to allow healthcare professionals to work until a later age by improving the work environment with help from hospitals, healthcare institutions and unions.
The Ministry is also considering ways to fund training courses for mid-career professionals who want to enter the healthcare industry, offering them allowances to at least partially cover living expenses throughout their studies.
Finally, 630 pre-employment grants have been handed out to Singaporeans studying medicine and dentistry overseas. These require students to return to Singapore to work after graduation.
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Talking in parliament yesterday (1 March), Minister of State for Health, Chee Hong Tat, said that Singapore was well on track to recruit 20,000 more healthcare workers by 2020.