Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at the Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony, 30 JULY 2013

Distinguished guests, colleagues,
Scholarship recipients,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon,

Introduction

1. I am delighted to join you at this year’s Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony.

2. I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all our scholarship and award recipients present today. I am glad that your parents, principals and teachers are also here with us to celebrate your achievements and witness your commitment to serve in our public healthcare sector. Your parents, with their love, support and nurturing, have made you the fine young men and women you are today. I would also like to thank our principals and teachers for your dedicated efforts in inspiring our scholars and imbuing in them the right values and spirit for public service.

Rising Healthcare Needs, Growing Demand for Talent

3. With the challenges of a growing and rapidly ageing population1, our healthcare needs are expected to rise in the coming years. We will therefore need to expand our public healthcare services to ensure that Singaporeans will continue to have access to quality and affordable care.

4. We have invested heavily in the building of healthcare infrastructural capacity. The new Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and the Integrated Building for Changi General Hospital will open in end 2014, while the Jurong Community Hospital will open in 2015. The completion of Sengkang General Hospital and adjoining Community Hospital has been brought forward from 2020 to 2018. By 2020, we will have added 4,100 acute and community hospital beds across Singapore. We will also be building another 4 new general hospitals. We will also be building more polyclinics.

5. But all this will not be possible without dedicated and passionate people to deliver the healthcare services. They are the engine that powers our public healthcare system.

6. Our infrastructural expansions will mean that we will require many more dedicated healthcare professionals, administrators and support staff. We project that the healthcare professional workforce - our doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and allied health professionals – will need to grow by 70%, or about 32,000 more, by 2030.

Attracting Fair Share of Local Talent for Public Healthcare

7. We have stepped up efforts to ensure that the public healthcare sector is able to offer not only competitive remuneration, but also attractive career opportunities for our healthcare professionals. We are also committed to building up a pipeline of Singaporeans who are passionate about healthcare and who Care To Go Beyond2.

8. This year, I am pleased to announce that we are awarding a bumper crop of 251 healthcare scholarships, a 46% increase from 172 scholarships awarded in 20123. This is an indication of the increasing number of top quality students with a keen passion and commitment to a public healthcare career. These include 223 undergraduate healthcare scholarships4 and 28 post-graduate scholarships. Of this group, 37 students have been awarded the Ministry of Health (MOH) Health Science Scholarship, the top-tier healthcare scholarship offered by the Ministry of Health and MOH Holdings.

A Strong Pool of Healthcare Scholars 2013

9. Our healthcare scholars this year come from diverse backgrounds and have different strengths and talent. They have excelled, not only academically but also in other spheres of achievements including community service, leadership and sports. Despite their diversity, they all share a common desire to serve and to make a real difference to other people’s lives.

10. One such example is Ms Sarah Chen, from National Junior College who is active in the sports arena. Sarah has been awarded a Health Science and Nursing Scholarship to pursue Physiotherapy in Singapore. Sarah is also a valued member of the Singapore National Kayaking Team and is training hard for the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. I am confident Sarah will do us proud.

11. Ms Zakiah Binte Mohamed Halim, from Temasek Junior College, will be studying Dietetics in Australia. Zakiah has been a dedicated member of the Leo Club and took part enthusiastically in various community service activities. Zakiah was also a volunteer tutor for underprivileged children in the Bedok neighborhood. For her outstanding community service efforts, she was awarded the Lions Young Leaders in Service Gold Seal.

12. A number of our scholars have also gone through life challenges and experiences that helped to strengthen their resilience, build their character and develop their deep empathy to help others.

13. Mr Jonathan Lim, from Nanyang Polytechnic has been passionate about nursing and healthcare since his secondary school days. He was appointed as the Vice Chairperson of the Red Cross Youth group in school. During his national service, he was a combat medic and also served as an instructor in the SAF Medical Training Institute. These personal experiences have motivated him to take up Nursing as his career. Jonathan will be pursuing a Nursing degree at the Singapore Institute of Technology in August 2013.

14. Another of our scholarship recipients, Miss Seah Shimin, will be receiving the Healthcare Graduate Studies Award today to pursue a Master in Clinical Psychology. Having lost both her parents at a young age, Shi Min had to work part-time to support her studies. Despite her challenges, she performed well in school and participated actively in both school and community-based activities. I commend Shi Min for her determination and resilience.

Moving ahead - Enhancing Our Healthcare Scholarships

15. I am heartened by the growing number of outstanding and talented students with the passion and commitment to take on a career in public healthcare. It is critical that we continue to attract such young Singaporean talent to join the public healthcare sector, and build a strong core of healthcare leaders for the future. To achieve this, we will be making enhancements to our healthcare scholarships from this year onwards. These include:

a. First, we will re-brand our healthcare scholarships to make them more effective in attracting the local talent we need. The top-tier Health Science Scholarship will be renamed as Healthcare Merit Scholarship (HMS), while the Health Science and Nursing Scholarship will be renamed the Healthcare Merit Award (HMA). We have also recently launched our new scholarship advertisement and a one-stop scholarship portal5, for interested students to find out more about the different scholarship opportunities available in the public sector.

b. Second, we will implement a new Scholar Development and Engagement Framework to enhance the holistic development of our scholars, to help realise their potential to the fullest. Through this framework, healthcare scholars can participate in professional or personal development activities, such as professional seminars, community involvement activities, exchange programmes and internships. These would in turn broaden their exposure and further enrich their overall experience and development during the course of their studies.

c. Third, we will also be ramping up our award of Mid-Term Healthcare Scholarships to provide more opportunities for promising local and overseas Singaporean undergraduates who have the aptitude and heart for public healthcare, to join us.

16. We are committed not only to attract the best local talent to public healthcare. We will also provide opportunities for them to pursue their aspiration along different career pathways, not just in the clinical fields but also in healthcare administration and management.

Developing our Scholars to Their Fullest

17. As a healthcare scholar, you will play an important role in shaping the future of Singapore’s public healthcare system. You have the potential to be our future healthcare leaders. You should also leverage fully on the scholarship to stretch and develop yourself. Your university education should give you the best professional knowledge to excel in your respective disciplines. Beyond that, you should proactively make use of this opportunity to learn from the best, grow, network and thrive in a fast-changing environment. These are the life skills that will set you up for success as you become part of the team to chart Singapore’s healthcare future.

Conclusion

18. You are now joining the healthcare family and taking on an important responsibility to serve our nation. I hope this sense of responsibility and purpose will follow you throughout your studies and your career in future. I am confident you will rise up to the challenges ahead, and champion the vision of helping fellow Singaporeans to live long, live well and with a peace of mind.

19. My best wishes to each and every one of you.

 

1 Our population grew by 25% over ten years and will continue to grow over the next decade. Healthcare services will need to grow in tandem. Our population is ageing rapidly. By 2030, 1 in 5 Singapore residents will be aged 65 and above. This is a 3 fold increase to 960,000 elderly, from 350,000 today.
2 Ongoing branding campaign for Nurses and AHPs
3 Growing number of scholarship applicants: 450 in 2010, 532 in 2011, 773 in 2012 and 1,051 in 2013.
4 This includes 37 Health Science Scholarship (HSS), 161 Health Science and Nursing Scholarships (HSNS) and 25 Singapore Industry Scholarship for Healthcare Administration.
5 www.healthcarescholarships.sg.

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