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08 May 2023

8th May 2023

We thank Dr Desmond Wai for his letter, “Act fast to draw and retain foreign nurses in Singapore” (April 27).

To meet Singapore’s growing healthcare demands, our public healthcare institutions employ foreign nurses to complement our healthcare workforce, which continues to comprise mainly locals.

The attrition of our foreign nurses increased in 2021 and 2022, due to the lifting of Covid-19 border restrictions and intensified global competition for healthcare professionals. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been working with MOH Holdings and our public healthcare clusters to address this, taking steps to slow down attrition while ramping up the recruitment of local and foreign nurses.

Altogether, we will need close to 4,000 new nurses to be onboarded in 2023 to account for the higher attrition in the last two years and cater for ongoing growth in workload. This is around a 30 per cent increase in the average number of new nurses onboarded between 2018 and 2022.

MOH regularly reviews nurses’ salaries in the public healthcare clusters to ensure they remain competitive, and implemented the Nurse Special Payment Package as a retention payment to recognise the contributions of local and foreign nurses.

An enhanced Nurse Special Payment is being paid out in March and September 2023. Additionally, our public healthcare clusters provide a housing allowance to defray the rental expenses of foreign nurses.

For foreign nurses who become valued members of the healthcare community and demonstrate their commitment to Singapore, we are prepared to grant them permanent residence status. This retains a pool of manpower that is of critical value to the healthcare system.

As our population ages, we are seeing more older patients with complex conditions requiring longer hospitals stays. Covid-19 has also delayed the opening of new hospitals.

As of April 22, 2023, the bed occupancy rate of public hospitals ranged from 76.2 per cent to 97.8 per cent.

To mitigate the situation, 805 beds were added to existing hospitals between 2019 and 2022, and MOH set up 500 transitional care facility beds. The situation should improve towards the end of 2023 with the progressive opening of Tan Tock Seng Hospital Integrated Care Hub and Woodlands Health Campus.

The Government and healthcare providers value the contributions of both our local and foreign nurses, and remain committed to attracting and retaining them to meet Singapore’s healthcare needs.

Lavinia Low
Director, Manpower Planning and Strategy
Ministry of Health