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Loss of medical talent to the private sector


Excerpt of speech by Minister for Health Mr Khaw Boon Wan

"...In the competition to be the regional medical hub, the key is our ability to produce top clinicians who are clearly better than our competitors.
Loss of Teachers
"For this reason, when I returned to the Health Ministry in 2003, I was a bit concerned with what I saw.  Several doctors whom I have worked with during my previous term are now in private practice: Abu Rauff, Walter Tan, June Lou, Ng Soon Chye, Krishnamoorthy, Noel Leong.
"These are doctors who have devoted many years of their lives to public service; good doctors and dedicated teachers.  I have expected them to retire in public sector.  Why are they now in private practice?
"Within the Ministry, there seems to be a view that the "loss of doctors to the private sector is not a loss, for as long as they continue their practice in Singapore".  I do not agree with this view.  The loss of good teachers and clinicians from the public sector is a big loss to Singapore.
"First, it is a big loss for our subsidised patients who cannot afford treatment in the private hospitals.
"Second, it is a big loss for our young doctors who will miss out on the teaching and mentoring by these senior teachers.  Forging the right values for public service is critical for our medical service to remain what it is - highly competent and at the cutting edge.
"After all, what is the difference to Singapore between the likes of Feng Pao Hsii and Foong Weng Cheong doing private practice in private hospitals or in public hospitals?
"To their patients, it may be trivial.  But to the young doctors and junior consultants, it is a big difference: the continuing interactions with their teachers and trainers, in the wards, in the doctors' lounge, in the corridor, are an inspiration and daily reminder about what public medical service is all about.  This is how good institutional values are forged and reinforced.
"All strong institutions have a critical mass of role models, who coach and mentor the young.  They provide the deep roots from which we get the new shoots, branches, flowers and fruit.  After a century of medical education, we have sunk some roots, but not quite deep enough.
"Look at the Mayo Clinic, they have deep roots and strong branches.  You can cut off several branches, the Institution will continue to flourish.  Against tsunamis, it will not be uprooted.  Can our public medical service survive a tsunami?
"Third, it is a big loss even for SingaporeMedicine as private practice here tends to be solo practice or at most limited group practice.  While there are some notable exceptions, this model offers few opportunities for medical advancement.

Source: Press Release 25 Feb 2005


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27 February 2005