A healthcare professional, Sim Hong Yu has aired her grievances on Facebook (FB) in relation to an ongoing recruitment drive to employ people to conduct swab tests in an effort to ramp up COVID-19 testing in Singapore as the country battles the corona virus outbreak.
While the FB post has since been deleted, it garnered many comments and opinions before the post was removed.
Essentially, the government is seeking to hire short term “swabbers” in return for the relatively high salary of between $3400 to $3800 per month without a corresponding requirement for the successful applicant to have any prior healthcare experience. Given that experienced nurses are remunerated at around $3,000 per month on average, it does seem odd that someone without healthcare experience could potentially be paid more than a trained and experienced nurse.
While the higher salary has been justified by some as a way to make up for the fact that it is a short term job, it is still a slap in the face to nurses who have undergone proper training and who are currently working long hours battling the corona virus. Unwittingly, it sends the message that as a country, we are dismissing the work of nurses so much so that even an untrained person is worth a higher salary!
As our healthcare workers put their lives and the lives of their families on the line daily to help us fight against the corona virus, this recruitment drive is tone deaf, insensitive and poorly thought through.
Criticism over low nursing pay is not a new issue in Singapore. Research has shown that nurses in Singapore are paid less than their counterparts in other developed countries in the region.
The corona virus has shown that nurses perform a vital and important role in our society. Their current remuneration does not match up to the essential and crucial nature of their job. The government’s willingness to pay untrained individuals more than the average nurse is a tacit admission that the work nurses undertake deserve a higher wage package. Yet, it has not addressed the issue of nursing salaries or promised a review. With this in mind, doesn’t it look like the government is taking our nurses and the sacrifices that they are making for granted?
Nurses are human and need encouragement, support and appreciation like anyone else. As one commentator points out — she felt demoralised when she saw how much non nurses such as the “health ambassadors” were getting paid for doing nurse like work.
Can we expect our nurses to put their lives on the line every single day when we are not taking tangible steps to value their labour?
Besides, the argument that a “swabber” is better remunerated because it is only a temporary job is not a sound justification for the higher salary when the whole situation is viewed in context. As another commentator points out, nurses have been chronically underpaid for many years now. The issue is therefore not so much about the “swabber” pay as it is about nursing being a poorly paid job for such a long time.
Nursing needing to be better remunerated in Singapore is after all not a new issue.
No one is suggesting that “swabbers” should not be fairly remunerated. Those who have this takeaway have completely missed the point. Given that our professionally trained nurses :
- are paid less than their counterparts in developed countries in the region for many years now; and
- are currently risking their lives everyday (plus the lives of their families),
While watching other less medically qualified individuals such as “health ambassadors” and “swabbers” get paid more, it is completely understandable for them to feel undervalued.
They have been working hard for so many years without public appreciation and just when they might have their deserved moment in the sun, it gets so cruelly snatched away. What is the point of intangible verbal praise or claps for them in the middle of the night from the comfort of our homes? Words or songs cannot help with mortgage payments or bills.
If we truly appreciate what nurses do, there is only one way to show it. PAY them more.