February 22, 2024

We know it all too well—Singapore’s love-hate relationship with hiring foreigners.
While we appreciate them for bolstering employment and supporting various industries in Singapore, it seems to be the case that in moments of strife, Singaporeans tend to point to the “outsiders”, the “guests”, the “strangers”.
This time, doctors recruited from India have been thrown into the limelight amidst an uproar surrounding an ongoing tender issued by MOHH.
Here’s what it’s all about.
The Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH) recently put up a tender requesting for a proposal for the “Appointment of a Recruitment Agency to Provide Services for the Recruitment of Doctors in India”.
The tender was issued earlier this month on 16 September, and is set to be closed by 10 October.
MOHH is the holding company of Singapore’s public healthcare clusters, which includes the National University Health System, the National Healthcare Group as well as Singapore Health Services.
In the tender document, MOHH states that the company “intends to recruit doctors from India to work as Medical Officers in Singapore”, and thereby require recruitment agency services to source for viable candidates.
The company also stated that it hopes to “recruit 60 Medical Officers from India annually from 2022 to 2024, with the option to extend this project for an additional year to 2025”.
This tender was picked up as social media fodder and expounded upon in an article by The Online Citizen, which surfaced concerns about efforts to hire local doctors while also calling into question the calibre of doctors recruited from India.
Clearly, MOHH took notice of the racket, and had to respond accordingly.
In a statement made on Saturday (1 Oct), a spokesman for MOHH said that over 90 per cent of junior doctors hired by MOHH annually are local.
Pretty good statistics.
These doctors are either graduates from our local medical schools, or returning Singaporeans who pursued overseas medical studies at recognised universities.
As we all should know by now, our three local medical schools are the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University, the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, and the Duke-NUS Medical School.
The spokesman for MOHH declined to comment on whether MOHH intends to expand the recruitment of Singaporean doctors trained overseas.
She also declined to comment on whether junior doctors from India made up the majority of non-local doctors, and whether MOHH issues similar tenders for recruitment services in other countries aside from India.
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MOHH generally recruits about 700 junior doctors to support the needs of Singapore’s public healthcare institutions every year, and the local pipeline has also been increased over the years.
Between 2012 and 2019, local medical schools increased their combined intakes by 45 per cent, from 350 in 2012 to approximately 510 in 2019.
What about in 2020 and 2021?
Plagued by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, many students had their overseas medical studies disrupted.
Local medical schools however, had a solution for this: an additional 40 students were admitted each year in 2020 and 2021.
The spokesman added that the intake of local universities were adjusted based on the needs of the healthcare sector as well as the admission standards of the universities.
“Naturally, this means that places in medical schools are highly sought after, admission is very competitive but, on the other hand, graduates from our medical school are very highly regarded.”
She also noted that MOHH has been recruiting from other countries with qualified doctors, not just India.
Such a move was brought about to ease the heavy workload of existing doctors especially with the additional burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to supplement local capacity needs.
These recruited doctors, however, are only granted conditional registration for clinical practice and are under strict supervision. They also must have graduated from medical schools on the Second Schedule of the Medical Registration Act.
So, contrary to popular belief, these recruited doctors aren’t exactly “stealing” local jobs: they aren’t even granted full registration initially.
However, should these doctors remain in good standing and receive favourable supervisory reports attesting to their professionalism and competency, they may eventually convert to full registration instead.
The spokesman added that “regardless of nationality, we value the contributions of each and every single doctor to Singapore and our healthcare system.”
Featured Image: Shutterstock / LisaAngeline123
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