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03 Nov 2021

2nd Nov 2021

NOTICE PAPER NO. 803 
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 2 NOVEMBER 2021



Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Leon Perera
MP for Aljunied GRC


Question No. 2103

To ask the Minister for Health (a) in each of the last five years, what are the average weekly working hours for (i) housemen and (ii) medical officers and residents; (b) whether shifts of over 30 hours still occur for housemen; (c) whether the Ministry is reviewing resident doctors’ weekly working hours with a post-COVID-19 ambition of reducing them; and (d) whether working hours are impacted significantly by the size of each degree intake and number of doctors in each cohort.


Answer

Working hours for medical doctors depend on a number of factors, not just the cohort size and number of doctors. 

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) has guidelines on the work hours of junior doctors, such as total allowable work hours per week and the provision of sufficient rest periods. Doctors undergoing training to be specialists also need to comply with guidelines for working hours and training. Efforts are made to ensure that the public healthcare institutions and doctors adhere to these guidelines. 

Based on an annual survey of residents, 84% complied with work hours of maximum 80 hours a week, 90% have at least a 10-hour interval between duty periods and after in-house calls.

Of special mention is the traditional night-call system for junior doctors.  This is a 24-hour duty, which is a longstanding practice that all doctors have gone through to ensure a seamless continuity of care for the patients. To support the well-being of doctors, guidelines on the frequency and duration of night-calls have been introduced. For example, for Post Graduate Year 1 doctors, after a 24 hour duty, they should spend no more than 6 additional hours for handing over and other activities.   Surveys showed that 85% complied with this requirement. Number of calls are mostly within SMC guidelines of 4 to 7 per month. Some of the departments have also introduced night float systems.  Unlike the traditional night-call system, doctors on night float perform approximately 12 hours of on-site duty during evening or night shifts usually for 1 or 2 weeks at a stretch with no other duties in the day. MOH is studying if the float system could complement the traditional call system.   

The profession and medical fraternity have traditionally undertaken the responsibility to take care of their juniors.  In response to feedback from junior doctors about working hours and well-being, the Director of Medical Services in MOH had commissioned a national committee, chaired by a very senior doctor, to lead initiatives to promote and improve the well-being of junior doctors in the public healthcare system and look into factors associated with work-related stress among junior doctors such as work hours, duration of night-calls and work structure.  This is in addition to the various initiatives already in place in the healthcare institutions to look after the well-being of junior doctors.
     
MOH and the public healthcare institutions will continue to better support junior doctors and improve their well-being, while balancing against the demands of the profession and the duty towards patients.