1. Minister Gan spoke on the Ministerial Committee on Ageing’s efforts to enhance aged care. Just as we have made a big push to significantly enhance the capacity and affordability of aged care, we need a big push on the manpower front too.
2. Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Dr Chia Shi Lu asked whether we have adequate manpower to care for our ageing population, and Dr Lam Pin Min spoke about enhancing the manpower and capability development in the intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) sector.
3. Like the acute sector, the ILTC sector needs to develop a strong base of qualified healthcare workers. Between now and 2020, we need 11,000 more staff across all levels, especially nurses, therapists, social workers and healthcare support workers, to augment the current 4,000-strong workforce. However, ILTC providers find it challenging to attract and retain good staff today, given their more limited resources and smaller scale. The Government will therefore support the ILTC sector to build up its capacity and capability in the following ways.
Ensuring Adequacy of Manpower
4. First, we will enhance the funding support to enable the sector to be better staffed.
Since last year, the Ministry has provided additional funding to the funded VWO nursing homes to improve their staffing ratios. We will now extend this funding support to the community hospitals, so that they too can increase their staffing to manage more complex cases, ease the staff’s workload, and set aside more training time for them. This initiative to enhance manpower staffing in the ILTC sector will cost MOH up to $20M in FY12.
5. Apart from helping providers increase their in-house staffing, we will also increase the external pool of healthcare professionals that ILTC providers can tap on, to augment their base of professional staff.
We are starting a new scheme to rotate experienced hospital nurses who have completed the Advanced Diploma in Gerontology, to ILTC institutions for six months. The nurses will get to apply their newly gained knowledge, in helping the institutions improve their services and processes. This scheme will kick off with 75 nurses from the next two batches of graduands of the Advanced Diploma course at Nanyang Polytechnic.
Ensuring Competitive Pay
6. Second, we must ensure that the sector can pay competitively. Healthcare professionals in the ILTC sector play an important role in caring for patients who need longer term rehabilitation and nursing care.
But their salaries have traditionally lagged behind that of their peers in the acute hospitals, which makes it challenging for the sector to attract and retain good staff.
7. Going forward, the Government will set aside up to $12M in FY12, to enable the VWO ILTC sector to raise pay. We will take a phased approach to the implementation. In the first phase, we are looking at salary increases of between 10% and 25% for nurses and allied health professionals. Doctors will receive adjustments similar to their peers in the acute sector. The funding to support the pay increases will apply from April 2012. This will boost institutions’ ability to recruit and retain good professional healthcare staff.
The Ministry will look towards funding the next phase of salary increases, as the sector grows in terms of its capabilities and productivity.
8. Separately, the Ministry and AIC will work closely with ILTC institutions to review the job scopes of healthcare support staff so as to make the work more challenging and meaningful, and to review their pay in tandem with the enhanced job scope.
Promoting Quality and Productivity
9. We will also work closely with the sector to build its capabilities and boost productivity. Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim asked about the potential to leverage on technology and innovation. We agree that there is room to further optimise manpower use and boost productivity.
10. The Government will therefore invest up to $96M over the next five years, to work with ILTC providers on various productivity initiatives, such as bulk procurement, job and process redesign, and leveraging on IT. For example, AIC has embarked on a pilot to redesign processes and jobs in three nursing homes which are relocating to new premises, and will extend this effort to other ILTC institutions.
11. As part of this effort, AIC will set up a new $20M Community Health Improvement and Productivity Scheme (‘CHIPS’), to drive quality improvement and productivity in the sector.
ILTC operators who have innovative ideas on how to improve work processes and harness technology to increase efficiency and raise quality of care, can seek funding to turn these ideas into real gains on the ground.
Investing in Skills and Professional Development
12. Lastly, we will step up our investment in professional development in this sector. Over the last five years, we have supported more than 350 ILTC staff for advanced skills training through the Health Manpower Development Programme-ILTC, or HMDP-ILTC in short, which has been instrumental in helping ILTC staff advance their skills and deepen their expertise.
13. One recipient of the HMDP-ILTC Fellowship is Ms. Roselind Tan Cheng, a Staff Nurse at St Luke’s Hospital. Formerly an architectural designer, she made a career switch to nursing almost eight years ago. Roselind finds nursing in the ILTC sector an immensely fulfilling vocation, and enjoys learning new ways of caring for her patients. Roselind has been awarded an HMDP-ILTC Fellowship to pursue an Advanced Diploma in Palliative nursing, which will enable her to provide better care for the palliative patients at St Luke’s.
14. Through the HMDP-ILTC and new upgrading scholarships for milestone professional training, such as degree upgrading programmes, the Government will invest $11M over the next five years in advanced skills training for locals working in the ILTC sector.
15. The Government will also invest another close to $10M over five years to support continuing training programmes in ILTC-specific areas such as dementia and palliative care.
16. Together, these efforts translate into an investment of more than $3,000 per local per year – to develop core skills in the sector and upgrade capabilities through advanced training, to raise the productivity of the entire sector.
17. Altogether, the Ministry will set aside up to $32M in FY12 to support the ILTC sector in staffing and pay enhancements, and another $117M over the next five years for productivity and skills upgrading. I encourage ILTC providers to tap on this additional government support to invest in the development and long-term retention of their staff. We believe that with these initiatives, institutions can attract more and better staff with the skills, aptitude and compassion to care for our seniors.
18. Thank you.