Speech by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretar, Ministry of Health, at the Opening Ceremony of Republic Polytechnic – Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (RP-KTPH) Teaching Dispensary on Thursday, 8 January 2015, Republic Polytechnic

Mr Yeo Li Pheow
Principal and CEO
Republic Polytechnic

Mrs Chew Kwee Tiang
CEO
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1                Good morning. I am honoured to be here with you today at the opening of the Republic Polytechnic (RP)-Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) Teaching Dispensary. This occasion is certainly significant to the two organisations that have invested much time, effort and resources in establishing it. But, at the same time, it also brings much promise to RP’s young, aspiring Diploma in Pharmaceutical Sciences students, the local healthcare industry and the Singapore population at large.

Demand for skilled healthcare workers

2                Many challenges lie ahead for Singapore’s healthcare system. One of the key challenges identified by the Ministry of Health in our “Healthcare 2020” Masterplan is the combined impact of a growing and ageing population on our healthcare capacity.

3                As our population ages, our healthcare services will need to grow in tandem. In 2013, for the first time in our country’s history, the proportion of Singapore residents aged 65 years and above crossed the 10% mark.  By 2030, 20% or 1 in 5 Singapore residents will be aged 65 and above.

4                Faced with this expected growth in healthcare demand, we are building up our healthcare infrastructure. More acute, community hospital and nursing home beds are being added.  In 2015, the new facilities opening include the Ng Teng Feng General Hospital, Jurong Community Hospital and Silver Lodge Nursing Home in the west, as well as the Yishun Community Hospital and All Saints Home in the north.  At the same time, we are also expanding other home and community care facilities, such as eldercare centres and home care services. Physical capacity however, must grow in tandem with skilled manpower - healthcare workers who are both well qualified and well trained to serve public needs.

5                For those of us in education and healthcare, this means that we shoulder a greater responsibility. As the demand for skilled healthcare workers grows, so too will the need to prepare our next generations of healthcare workforce for the future. Education institutions have the responsibility to groom a pool of skilled talent who are ready to support our healthcare institutions in delivering health services smoothly and effectively to fellow Singaporeans. Our Pharmacy support workforce is no different. The opening of the RP-KTPH Teaching Dispensary is timely. The teaching dispensary simulates a realistic hospital pharmacy environment, and is well furnished with more than 600 different types of medications. Complemented by lesson plans that incorporate authentic operational workflow, it offers an immersive learning experience to better prepare students to be work-ready.      

Nurturing skilled healthcare workers

6                Nurturing a new generation of skilled healthcare workers requires strong partnerships between our education and healthcare institutions. Such collaborations allow our students to benefit from a holistic learning experience, as they move seamlessly between classroom-based learning in the schools, and clinical training in the hospitals. This is also aligned with the goals of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) Committee, which seeks to deepen school-industry collaborations and raise the quality of teaching and learning for our students.

7                Therefore, I am particularly heartened that KTPH is leading the way by working hand in hand with the education sector to achieve this vision for Singapore. Synergies can only be created when education curriculum and industry training are delivered holistically, in a coordinated and complementary manner.

8                Graduates like Mariem Bte Anwar have benefitted from such synergies. Mariem graduated from RP in 2010 with a Diploma in Pharmaceutical Sciences. A year before that, she had started as an intern at Alexandra Hospital, which was manned by the KTPH team. With her strong foundation in the pharmaceutical sciences, Mariem performed well in her internship and was offered a permanent position as a Pharmacy Technician upon graduation at the newly opened KTPH. From the very beginning, she proved to be a valuable asset to KTPH. In the four years that she has been with KTPH, her job scope has grown significantly: from assisting pharmacy operations to becoming a preceptor to students on attachment and now, as an integral member of the Pharmacy Technician training team.

9                Mariem’s experience shows how beneficial it can be when industry and education are aligned and jointly invested in people development. Her internship allowed KTPH to assess her potential and organisational fit. For RP, placing students on internships provides them with real life learning opportunities that classroom lessons can never hope to replace. For Mariem herself, of course, it led to the discovery of a rewarding career with KTPH.

10            Education provides the foundation for the development of deep industry skills. However, these skills will only reach its fullest potential when twinned with a realistic learning environment - one that evolves and adapts to the changing needs of the sector as well as of the learner.  I am glad to learn that RP and KTPH will endeavour to identify knowledge and training gaps as they work closely together.

11            The Ministry recognises that Pharmacy Technicians are important members of the pharmacy workforce. Through a taskforce led by Chief Pharmacist Office, we have enhanced the career development framework in the public sector early last year for Pharmacy Technicians such as Mariem to continue to progress and develop professionally. The enhanced framework will allow each graduate to maximise his or her potential through skill upgrading and role expansion in identified areas such as sterile manufacturing, drug distribution, quality assurance and medication safety, as well as patient care services. Higher job levels have also been created for senior Pharmacy Technicians who demonstrate the ability to assist pharmacists in training, supervisory and management functions. With the enhanced career structure and necessary training support, we hope to assist Pharmacy Technicians to develop meaningful and fulfilling careers in healthcare.

Conclusion

12            A well-trained healthcare workforce is instrumental to the success of our healthcare system and I am heartened that the RP-KTPH Teaching Dispensary will support and strengthen the training of future Pharmacy Technicians. Once again, I offer my heartiest congratulations on your opening.

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