Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health, at Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony, 30 July 2014

Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim,

Permanent Secretary for Health, Mrs Tan Ching Yee,

Director of Medical Services, Associate Professor Benjamin Ong

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

Introduction

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

2.           We are gathered here today to witness the award of 283 healthcare scholarships. This is yet another pinnacle achieved in our mission to attract young, talented Singaporeans to join us in the public healthcare sector.   

3.           I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all of our scholarship recipients who are with us today. I’m glad that your parents, principals and teachers have also joined us to celebrate your achievements and witness the affirmation of your commitment to serve in Singapore’s public healthcare sector. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude to this special group of people whose love, support and guidance have moulded our scholarship recipients into fine young men and women. All of you have been instrumental in developing them, instilling in them the right values and strength of character, and inspiring them to serve in Singapore’s public healthcare sector.  

Meeting Our Healthcare Challenges of the Present and Future

4.           Moving forward, Singapore faces significant challenges in our delivery of healthcare services. These challenges are not new - a growing and rapidly ageing population[1], changing lifestyles of Singaporeans and the rise in chronic and more complex health conditions as a result.

5.           In 2012, we formulated the Healthcare 2020 masterplan to guide us in building a better and more inclusive healthcare system for the future.   To ensure accessibility of healthcare, we are investing heavily in healthcare infrastructural developments, not just acute hospitals, but also community hospitals, nursing homes as well as community and home care capacity.  In addition, we will continue to develop and strengthen the Regional Health Systems (RHSes) to provide more integrated, patient-centric and cost-effective care. The RHSes will drive and coordinate the delivery of care among various healthcare providers in the respective regions to better meet our patients’ needs.  

6.           As we increase healthcare capacity and improve the delivery of care, we need to continue to ensure that healthcare remains affordable for all Singaporeans. Recently, the Government has announced the introduction of Medishield Life, a major structural change in healthcare financing to provide every Singaporean with better lifelong protection against large medical bills at an affordable premium cost.  In short, through Medishield Life, we will provide Better Protection, For All, For Life.

Growing Talent Needs of Public Healthcare

7.           Underpinning the implementation of Healthcare 2020 is the need for us to build a strong pipeline of talented individuals who can drive transformations in our public healthcare sector. We are stepping up efforts to enhance the attractiveness of healthcare services to Singaporeans.  A good example is the setting up of the National Nursing Taskforce. It will be announcing its recommendations soon on the future direction of nursing, particularly in the areas of role enhancements, education and professional development, career advancement and recognition.

Attracting our Fair Share of Talent

8.           As part of our overall effort to attract more talented Singaporeans to public healthcare, I announced key enhancements to our healthcare scholarship framework at the Scholarship Award Ceremony last year.  These enhancements included the rebranding of our scholarships as the Healthcare Merit Scholarship (HMS) and Healthcare Merit Award (HMA) for nursing, pharmacy and allied health professions, as well as the introduction of a holistic Scholar Development and Engagement Framework to support our scholars and develop their potential to the fullest.

9.           I am happy to note that our efforts are beginning to bear fruit.  This year, we have seen an increase of more than 50% from last year in the total number of healthcare scholarship applications received[2].  From this pool, we will be giving out a record 283[3] healthcare scholarships.  This is an increase of 12% over the number awarded in 2013, which was already 45% higher than that in the previous year.   

10.       This is a strong affirmation of the growing awareness and interest in public healthcare careers among talented Singaporean students. The strong advocacy and support of our schools, principals, teachers and parents also played a key role in encouraging our students to consider a healthcare career.  I would like to thank you for your support and your trust in us. 

Our New Healthcare Scholarship Recipients

11.       Our healthcare scholars come from diverse backgrounds but share a common desire to serve and a passion to make a positive difference to others in society.

12.       One such example is Mr Mohamad Asraf Bin Ramli, from Tampines Junior College. Asraf has been awarded a Healthcare Merit Scholarship to pursue Medical Social Work at the National University of Singapore. Asraf comes from a humble family background.  His parents attended the Healthcare Scholarships tea session, where they found out more about the exciting career opportunities available in our public healthcare sector, and supported fully Asraf’s decision to take up our scholarship.  

13.       Another example is Ms Victoria Teoh, from Temasek Junior College.  Victoria will be studying Nursing under the Healthcare Merit Scholarship at the National University of Singapore.  Her interest in healthcare started from primary school, and she has developed a strong desire to help others. Victoria’s mother strongly encouraged her to consider Nursing as a career. Her attachments with Alexandra Hospital have also reaffirmed her passion in nursing.

14.       Ms Divya Murugan, from Pioneer Junior College, is a proud recipient of the overseas Healthcare Merit Award. She will be pursuing Occupational Therapy in Australia. Having volunteered at the Institute of Mental Health on her own initiative and participated in an attachment with Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Divya is highly inspired and motivated by the opportunity to work in a healthcare team and make a difference to people’s lives.

15.       Another of our scholarship recipients Miss Nadine Chia, who will be receiving the Healthcare Graduate Studies Award to pursue a local Master in Public Health. Nadine was a former Foreign Service Officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). During her MFA stint, she worked with colleagues from the Ministry of Health and our healthcare institutions on various policy-related issues, and to develop training programmes for medical professionals in the region. These experiences have inspired her to pursue a career in public healthcare.

16.       I hope that Nadine, Divya, Victoria and Asraf will continue to pass on their passion and inspire more young, talented Singaporeans to join the healthcare sector.

Embarking on Your Journey, Preparing For the Future

17.     As a healthcare scholar, you will play an important role in shaping the future of Singapore’s public healthcare sector. 

18.     As you pursue your studies, I would like to encourage you to make full use of the time and opportunities to train your mind, develop yourself, network with others and learn from the best. While your university education will give you the best professional knowledge to excel in your respective disciplines, you should also stay connected to the ground, and learn to relate theory to real world practical application, especially in Singapore’s context. These are the life skills that will set you up for success in the future.

19.     We will continue to support, partner and guide you in your journey ahead. Beyond your studies, we are committed to develop you professionally in your chosen field of study and to support you in advancing your career. 

Conclusion

20.       You have now joined our public healthcare family and are making a commitment to serve our nation and our people.  As a healthcare professional of the future, you must always put the interests of your patients at the heart of everything you do, and care to go beyond.  I hope that this sense of purpose will guide you and help you rise to all the challenges that may come your way as you journey ahead.   

21.       We are all looking forward to the day that you finish your training and return to our healthcare family, to serve and help develop Singapore’s future healthcare system so that all Singaporeans can live well, live long and with peace of mind.

On this note, I wish you all the best on your journey ahead.  Thank you and congratulations.



 

[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] Growing number of scholarship applicants: 532 in 2011, 773 in 2012, 1,051 in 2013 and 1,640 in 2014.

[3] The total number of healthcare scholarships awarded over the past 3 years is: 251 in 2013, 172 in 2012 and 117 in 2011.

 

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