Foreign doctors galore in public healthcare?


How many non-Singaporean doctors (if we include new citizens) are there in the public sector?

I refer to the article “New work restrictions for foreign-trained doctors” (Straits Times, Jan 1).

It states that “No foreign-trained doctors applying to work here will be allowed to offer aesthetic treatments while they are on conditional registration, and no more than 20 per cent of their time can be spent on health screening.

The new rules under the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) Registration and Supervisory Framework were issued on Dec 18 and are now in effect.

All foreign-trained doctors must spend at least two years under conditional registration, during which they need to work under supervision, before they can be considered for full registration that allows them to practise on their own.”

As to “There were 256 new conditionally registered doctors in 2016, bringing the total to 2,250 as of the end of 2016, with only 146 working in the private sector” – according to the Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) 2016 annual report” – 38 per cent or 3,405 of the total of 8,973 doctors in the public sector were non-Singaporeans.

Why is there apparently, arguably such a high percentage of non-Singaporean doctors in the public sector?

In this connection – Prof Tambyah, who works at the National University Hospital (NUH) and is a member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, had said at a May 1 forum last year – that the doctors “say that every time they complain about conditions in the public hospital, they are told, ‘Oh you know, complain lah, you know we can hire somebody from South or South-east Asia who is willing to work for $3,000 a month‘”.

He also said: “Even in my own field, the junior doctors tell me this and I don’t know how true it is.”

Prof Tambyah made the remarks when he was speaking about how the lack of a minimum wage was affecting junior doctors. A minimum wage would level the playing field, he added at the event, which was organised by, a group offering support for the unemployed.

Perhaps the answer to these questions may help to clarify things:-

… are foreign qualified doctors from typically the Philippines, India and Myanmar employed as clinical associates at $3,000 a month?

… do they perform some of the duties that junior doctors do, like seeing local adult patients at the polyclinics?

By the way, how many foreign doctors have become or may eventually become permanent residents (PRs) or citizens?

If we factor in the foreign doctors who have become citizens – could it be that the percentage of “non-Singaporean” doctors in the public sector may even be higher than 38 per cent?

With regard to “The change does not affect those who were already working in the private sector on Dec 18, when the new rule became effective.

Parkway and the Singapore Medical Group, which both provide health screening, said they are not affected as their doctors are all on full registration.

Only Aesthetics, which has seven clinics, said it has two doctors on conditional registration providing aesthetic treatments.

Ms Nicole Chia, a marketing executive at Only Aesthetics, said the two doctors will continue in this role” – how many foreign doctors are expected to be affected by the new restrictions announced now – a handful or more?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.