Mr Lim Swee Say, Secretary-General, NTUC
Ladies and gentlemen
1 It is a pleasure for me to join you for the launch of the Healthcare Cluster Tripartite Workgroup this morning. One of the key focus of the workgroup is on raising productivity of the healthcare sector.
Driving Healthcare Productivity in the Healthcare Sector
2 Over the past year, I have seen how our public healthcare clusters have continuously sought to innovate to better meet the healthcare needs of Singaporeans. In fact, in the Economist article this week (8 Sep 2012) on “Rethinking the welfare state – Asia’s next revolution”, the article cited that Asia’s governments can seek inspiration from “tiny Singapore, where government spending is only one fifth of GDP but schools and hospitals are among the best in the world.”
3 Our public healthcare clusters play a critical role in driving healthcare productivity. For many years, they have put in place cross-profession continuous improvement teams working on various projects to review and enhance the provision of healthcare services, through the application of process management tools such as LEAN methodology and Kaizen philosophy. I understand that our public healthcare clusters worked very hard to put up their respective exhibits today, to showcase and share the productivity initiatives they have introduced, or will be introducing within their clusters very soon. All of these projects have or are expected to result in improved productivity – be it through job redesign, improved workflow, or assistive technology. This exhibition will enable our public healthcare institutions to learn from each other’s efforts, and explore how these initiatives can be adapted within their respective clusters.
4 But why is improving productivity important, especially within the healthcare sector? When productivity improves, patients benefit as our hospitals can offer them more efficient care and service. Our healthcare institutions benefit from efficiency gains and savings in operating costs. And our healthcare workers benefit as well, when productivity improvements lead to better work environments, higher job value, and improved employability of our healthcare workers. By making work more efficient and effective, productivity improvements also contribute to a more motivated workforce with better job satisfaction.
5 Let me illustrate what I mean with a couple of real-life examples.
6 The first is the use of Calypso chairs and steady aid devices to transport patients at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) from the bed to the bathroom. Instead of requiring two Healthcare Assistants to assist each patient, with the use of the assistive devices, now only one staff is required per patient. And this has resulted in a 10% reduction in the patient fall rate, and improved the overall physical safety of patients. IMH and its staff have benefited too - with the use of the chairs, an average of 300 minutes per day is saved and this is time freed up for staff to devote to other important work. The work of transporting patients now is also less menial and physically taxing, and staff are less susceptible to job-related injuries such as backaches. They also have more time to interact with patients, adding greater meaning to their work and creating a more positive experience for our patients. This is an example of productivity initiatives resulting in win-win-win outcomes for patients, healthcare workers as well as healthcare institutions. And I am happy to note that the staff who completed the training on the use of the devices saw an expansion in their job roles and also received recognition for their efforts through a salary increase.
7 Another example is the “e-Portering” mobile technology that was adopted by the Singapore General Hospital. With the mobile handheld device, ancillary staff can access service requests on the go instead of having to return to the office to check the requests via fax. Through the “e-Porter”, staff can simply press a button to accept and complete the request and this is immediately updated in the database. This helps to minimise the incidences of ‘missing cases’ and reduces manual paperwork and potential errors as well as saves time and effort on the part of the staff.
8 Beyond the use of technology and devices, the public healthcare clusters have also sought to drive productivity improvements by raising staff capability through job redesign, skills upgrading and the development of career pathways in tandem with the redesigned job scopes. For example, the National University Hospital (NUH) has re-designed the Patient Care Associates (PCAs) and Patient Service Associates (PSAs) jobs into two distinct roles, with PCAs focusing on assisting doctors with case notes and appointment bookings and PSAs focusing on frontline operations such as patient registration and billing. While previously PCAs/PSAs handled the whole range of duties, the more specialised roles have enabled staff to develop greater proficiency in their work through specific skills training. This in turn benefits patients when they are served by better trained PSAs.
9 NUH also created a progression pathway to enable PCAs and PSAs to progress to become higher level Service Executives, if they have performed well on the job and demonstrate the ability to take on larger roles. As Service Executives, they can be involved in managing the day-to-day operations of the clinic in partnership with the clinic manager, and playing an active role in staff development and training. These enhancements contribute to raising the skills and capabilities of PCAs and PSAs and consequently the level and value of their output. I look forward to touring the exhibits that have been set-up which showcases many examples of productivity improvement efforts.
Pay Increase for Public Healthcare Sector Administrative, Ancillary and Support Staff
10 As our public healthcare institutions continue to drive productivity improvements, it is important to share part of the gains with the staff who have contributed to deriving them, to sustain employee involvement and good labour relations. I would like to specifically mention our healthcare administrative and support staff, who are important partners in the healthcare team and who play a crucial role in the delivery of healthcare services, from registration, to catering, preparation of the operating theatre, appointment booking and providing corporate services, just to name a few. Rising expectation for public healthcare services means that the work of our administrative, ancillary and support staff has become more demanding and complex.
11 To meet this challenge, the public sector needs a strong and committed corps of healthcare personnel at all levels, who are dedicated to doing their best for their patients every day. To achieve this, we must ensure that the public sector continues to attract, motivate and retain high performing staff, MOH and the healthcare clusters have completed a review of healthcare staff salaries, taking feedback from the unions into consideration. We will adjust the base pay of the 16,000 healthcare administrative, ancillary and support staff in the public sector by between 4% and 10% from this month. The wage increases are aimed at retaining high performing staff in our public healthcare institutions and motivating them in their commitment towards pursuing continuous improvements in healthcare service delivery for the benefit of our patients.
Formation of Healthcare Cluster Tripartite Workgroup
12 While there has been significant progress in raising productivity in the public healthcare sector, we recognise that there is always room for improvement and areas in which we can do more. The formation of the Healthcare Cluster Tripartite Workgroup, which is a tripartite partnership involving the NTUC’s Healthcare Cluster of Unions, MOH and the six public healthcare clusters is therefore a major milestone.
13 This workgroup brings the three partners together to support productivity initiatives in a targeted and coordinated manner, to enhance the employability, job value and retention of the rank-and-file healthcare workers. The workgroup will focus on raising productivity through skills upgrading, job redesign and the use of assistive devices. More importantly, it will provide an accessible platform for the continued sharing of best practices and innovative initiatives across the healthcare institutions to produce improved outcomes on a wider scale.
14 Through these efforts, we hope to improve the skill levels, career prospects and wages of our healthcare workers, as we work towards our shared goal of improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of our healthcare system for Singaporeans.
15 I wish the Healthcare Cluster Tripartite Workgroup the very best as they take this endeavour forward.
16 Thank you.