Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): Mr Chairman, I recently filed Parliamentary Questions on junior doctors’ working conditions. I would like to call for a review of the current 80 working hour per week guidelines, with a view to reducing it marginally, say, to 70 hours.
Some overseas studies do show that work hour reforms are not necessarily tied to adverse patient outcomes and that 80 hours is more than what is necessary. We can study this locally before making changes.
While it is understandable that hours are frontloaded in a junior doctor’s career, so they are exposed to a variety of cases and have experience of disease progression and so on, recent reports of burnout are very concerning. Burnout harming doctors’ well-being can impact patient care. Sleep deprivation research shows it can impair psycho-motor abilities to a degree comparable to intoxication. Lack of work-life balance may also push well-trained healthcare workers to work in other countries or industries.
Secondly, let us move towards 100% compliance with the current 10-hour intervals between duty periods and after in-house calls, up from 90% now. We must also ensure that there is no under-reporting. I understand from my past Parliamentary Question that MOH has indicator showing that there is no systemic under-reporting, but anecdotal feedback suggests that this still happens to some extent. In cases where under-reporting or lack of compliance is found, let us move fast to study lapses and ensure manpower is sufficient.
Lastly, I would like to suggest that MOH mandates concrete steps to shorten the time spent handing over and peripheral duties. A 24-plus-hour duty is taxing and reducing administrative time will allow junior doctors to obtain sufficient rest before their next shift.
9 March 2022
Ministry of Health