Leave policy for hospital workers may change if COVID cases keep rising: MOH official

·Senior Editor
·2 min read
Director of medical services Kenneth Mak addresses reporters at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 on Friday, 21 January 2022. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)
Director of medical services Kenneth Mak addresses reporters at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 on Friday, 21 January 2022. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)

SINGAPORE — If COVID-19 case numbers in hospitals continue to rise, coupled with healthcare workers being unable to work due to COVID infection, hospitals may have to "review and adjust" leave policies, said Ministry of Health's director of medical services Kenneth Mak on Friday (21 January).

Noting that leave policies have not been adjusted since December 2021, Associate Professor Mak conceded, "At this point in time, we'll continue to watch the situation and certainly if the numbers in the hospitals continue to rise, and if there's a potential overwhelming of healthcare resources with an increase in manpower absenteeism, the hospitals may have to review and adjust leave policies."

Prof Mak was addressing reporters at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 (MTF), where the MTF was asked if healthcare workers' overseas leave would again be suspended this year.

He added that the last few months had been a "good opportunity" for healthcare workers to take leave and recharge. Some had also been granted overseas leave on exceptional and compassionate grounds, in order to visit their families.

'Unimaginable' burden of care

Last November, Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Health Janil Puthucheary told Parliament that a total of 1,500 healthcare workers resigned in the first half of 2021, compared to about 2,000 annually before the pandemic. The SMS told the House that more foreign healthcare workers had also resigned, compounded by their inability to travel to see their families back home.

In a written parliamentary reply on 11 January, the Ministry of Health said less than one-third of public healthcare workers will not be able to fully clear their accumulated leave for 2021.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced in November that some 100,000 public healthcare workers in Singapore will receive a cash award of up to $4,000 for their contributions to the fight against the pandemic.

On Friday, Trade and Industry and MTF co-chair Minister Gan Kim Yong said the best way for members of the public to support healthcare workers was by being socially responsible and observing safe management measures.

Ong also urged the unvaccinated to get their shots. "Every healthcare worker when they see the workload building up, ICU beds filling up and mostly by unvaccinated people, they all ask the same question: why didn't they vaccinate themselves?"

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