SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) is reviewing the residency programme for doctors, Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat said on Saturday (Sep 30), acknowledging that some of the outcomes "have not been as positive in practice" as originally hoped for.
The residency programme was last revised in 2010 when MOH adopted the American residency system to provide trainee doctors with a more structured framework and regular supervision.
"As the residency system was adapted from the US, there were challenges to fit its different elements into our system in Singapore during implementation," Mr Chee said.
"We have to be honest and acknowledge that while the residency programme has its advantages and good points, some of the outcomes have not been as positive in practice as what we had originally hoped for."
Mr Chee was addressing some 400 new doctors at a ceremony where they affirmed their commitment to the duty of care and responsibilities towards patients and the medical profession.
He added that the positive elements of the programme should be retained, while taking "concrete steps to address the problems we have encountered and improving the outcomes for our doctors".
"For this effort to succeed, we need to work closely with our professional bodies and doctors to listen to your feedback and see what we can do together to enhance the system," said Mr Chee.
One main problem of the current residency programme is that disease patterns in Singapore and the US are vastly different, said Associate Professor Chen Fun Gee, who is director of the graduate medical studies division at National University Hospital.
This means trainee doctors are assessed on diseases that are not common in Singapore, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
"In Singapore, we have a higher diabetes rate compared to other countries; we have dengue haemorrhagic fever, which you don't see in the United States ... we need to make sure our doctors understand these diseases and should be assessed in their competencies in these diseases," said Assoc Prof Chen, who is also a member of the Singapore Medical Council.
In his speech, Mr Chee also reiterated the ministry's position on the need for more doctors to practice family medicine as Singapore's population ages.
"We are not discouraging doctors from specialising. There remains an important need for different groups of specialists in our healthcare system. What we want is to have the right mix of specialists, including larger numbers of doctors specialising in areas such as family medicine, internal medicine, geriatrics and palliative care," said Mr Chee.