MP Sylvia Lim

Ms Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Health whether any of the recommendations of the 2021 National Wellness Committee on Junior Doctors have been implemented so far and, if so, whether an elaboration can be provided.

Dr Janil Puthucheary: Sir, my response will also cover matters raised in the question by Dr Wan Rizal1 scheduled for a subsequent Sitting. I would invite Dr Wan Rizal to seek clarifications today if need be and if the question has been addressed, it may not be necessary for him to proceed with the question for the future Sitting.

Sir, the attrition rate of doctors in the public healthcare sector has remained stable in the last three years, ranging from 3% to 5%. Nevertheless, we continue to make efforts to improve the well-being of our doctors and retaining them in public service, including the formation of the National Wellness Committee for Junior Doctors (NWC-JD) which has been studying initiatives to promote and improve the well-being of junior doctors in the public healthcare system.

 The committee is conducting a series of in-depth small group discussions with junior and senior doctors. Through these we have sought to validate the approach to key concerns such as the need to improve career pathways, address work hours and improve work conditions. The committee is concluding its engagements with stakeholders and finalising its recommendations.

 Early initiatives already in place include the appointment of Chief Wellness Officers in our public healthcare clusters. These officers have a responsibility to enhance the well-being of all healthcare staff. We have also begun to expand and refine career pathways, such as the introduction of the Hospital Clinician scheme to provide doctors with more diverse career options.

Sir, the worst of the pandemic is over and patient numbers have reduced. However, all our healthcare workers remain busy serving the healthcare needs of Singaporeans. The committee continues to review the working hours, working conditions and well-being of junior doctors. It will take some time to study these matters and make appropriate further recommendations.

Mr Speaker: Ms Sylvia Lim.

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied): Thank you, Speaker. Two supplementary questions for the Senior Minister of State. Earlier, he mentioned that the junior doctors were being consulted as part of this review, but could I ask him whether there are any junior doctors on the committee itself, the National Wellness Committee?

And the second question is some doctors who had spoken publicly earlier have mentioned two key areas to be reviewed, which are mandating rest days, and also, to move away from 30-hour calls. So, I would like his confirmation that these areas are being looked at with some priority.

Dr Janil Puthucheary: Sir, I thank the Member for the supplementary questions. The answer to both questions is yes.

Mr Speaker: Mr Leon Perera.

Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): Sir, one quick supplementary question. Is the Government looking at the cap of 80 hours per week, I believe, that is still in place. Previously in the House, I have mentioned that there is evidence from other jurisdictions that you can get the same training outcomes with the cap of 70 hours per week, so will that be reviewed by this committee?

Dr Janil Puthucheary: Sir, the committee is indeed looking at the issue of working hours for the junior doctors.

Ministry of Health
20 March 2023

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