It was reported in Straits Times today (11 Jul) that private healthcare group IHH Healthcare Singapore is sourcing nurses from places like Australia, Hong Kong and Britain, as it said there is a huge shortage of nurses.
It added that the quota limit placed on S Passes, a mid-tier work pass for those earning at least $2,500 a month, has been its biggest hurdle in filling its nursing ranks.
IHH Healthcare Singapore operates hospitals like the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital and Parkway East Hospital.
By the end of last year (2020), there were more than 42,000 nurses registered with the Singapore Nursing Board, an increase from 36,000 in 2013. Foreign nurses make up about one-third of the overall nursing workforce in Singapore, with Philippine nurses forming the biggest pool.
At IHH Healthcare Singapore, however, half of its nursing workforce here in Singapore are said to be foreign nurses. But its director of nursing Josephine Ong assured, “We are always in need of local nurses and would be keen to consider any suitable candidate.”
It’s not known why IHH Healthcare Singapore chose to aggressively recruit half of its nursing workforce with foreign nurses when the proportion of foreign nurses in Singapore is only one-third of the overall nursing workforce.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng was formerly MD and CEO of IHH Healthcare
It turns out that the present Manpower Minister Tan See Leng was the former managing director and chief executive officer of IHH Healthcare, which operates those hospitals in Singapore as well as other hospitals in the region.
He was IHH’s chief for 6 years from Jan 2014 to Dec 2019.
Tan left IHH at the end of 2019 after his contract ended as he “has elected to retire upon the completion of his contract period”. But retirement was not to be. Tan joined the People’s Action Party (PAP) and ran for election several months later in Jul 2020, contesting in Marine Parade GRC.
Still, it’s not known why under Tan’s leadership at IHH, he did not try to recruit more local nurses in Singapore so as to help develop a better “Singaporean core” in the health care industry.
PM Lee: We want to maintain a strong Singaporean core
In fact, in his New Year’s message back in 2013 before Tan was appointed to head IHH, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been advocating the development of a “Singaporean core”.
He said, “Fundamentally, the population issue is about maintaining a strong Singaporean core.”
“A strong Singapore core is about the spirit of Singapore – who we are, what ideals we believe in and what ties bind us together as one people. We must therefore also give full weight to the intangible human considerations,” PM Lee added.
And 6 months later in Jun 2013, then Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam who was the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Chairman, also mentioned that it’s important to develop a “Singaporean core” in the finance sector.
He told the media that the local core in banking is “not just about numbers”.
“It’s about proactive career development, and making sure that Singaporeans are represented in the areas of the banks which are going to see growth opportunities,” he said. “It’s making sure there is a good spread of opportunities for Singaporeans within the different banking functions.”
It’s not known why Tan did not heed the government’s call at the time when he was heading IHH to help develop a “Singaporean core” in IHH’s nursing workforce in Singapore.