Allowing healthcare workers to go on leave will bring them 'much-needed relief': Ong Ye Kung
SINGAPORE: Healthcare workers in Singapore have been "under pressure" for the past 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic and allowing them to go on leave will provide "much-needed relief", said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (Oct 20).
Speaking alongside Finance Minister Lawrence Wong at a press conference, Mr Ong noted that it was important to take care of the well-being of healthcare workers and that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has started to roster them to go on leave towards the end of the year.
"They have been really under pressure for the last 20-plus months," he said.
"I think most, if not all of them, have not even taken leave. Our foreign nurses, and healthcare workers have not had a chance to see their family.
"So even though the workload is so high, and every (healthcare worker) is needed at their station, we do have to take care of their well-being as well, which is why MOH has also issued a circular to allow and to ask the (public healthcare) clusters to start rostering them to go on leave towards the end of this year, and I think it's much needed relief for the healthcare workers."
Mr Ong's comments come a day after it was announced that healthcare workers can now apply for leave to travel overseas and resume work when they return.
"With immediate effect, MOH will lift the suspension on overseas leave application for all healthcare workers," said Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH) in a circular on Tuesday.
MOHH, the holding company of Singapore's public healthcare groups, said its review of the overseas travel guidelines was in line with the Government's streamlined protocols and new vaccinated travel lanes announced on Oct 9.
Mr Ong also noted that it was important to beef up manpower so as to provide relief to healthcare workers. Measures include cutting down on polymerase chain reaction testing, which frees up swabbers to be redeployed, he said.
Mr Ong added that the Government has also called on volunteers through the SG Healthcare Corps.
“Two thousand people have responded, and we have identified 800-plus who are suitable and waiting for deployment," he said.
He noted that the ministry is also tapping on the private sector and said that they have been a “great help”.
"They've been helping us with vaccination operations, swabbing, as well as operation of the (COVID-19 treatment facilities) as well as (community care facilities), so they have been a great help.
"We have also reached out to them to also help take in some patients, COVID and non-COVID, so that we can share the burden as one healthcare ecosystem," said Mr Ong.
"So through various means, we hope that towards the end of the year healthcare workers can be given a reprieve."