Healthcare Services Employees’ Union: We’re Treating the Sick, So We Have to be Well

Burned-out. Overwhelmed. Confused.

Sounds like symptoms that would require medical intervention.

But what if these are the conditions that many of our healthcare workers, the very same ones who provide medical support to our vulnerable and unfit, are currently facing?

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 ripping through the country has subjected excessive stress and demands on our medical facilities and its people.

Singapore is currently in the midst of a surge, with a daily record of more than 20,000 new infections reported over the last two days.

Understandably, nurses are understaffed, and medical resources are overstretched. Moreover, the high resignation rate in the faculty has further exacerbated the situation.

Many nurses have double the patient load or worked longer with improper or insufficient rest. On top of that, the stress of tending to their loved ones, some of who may have been infected, adds to the fatigue.

As front liners, our healthcare workers are at high risk of infection.

Each time they get an acute respiratory infection, these healthcare workers are given three days of MC to ensure they are fully recovered to minimize any possible exposure to patients.

Healthcare workers have 14 days of outpatient sick leave and 46 days of hospitalization leave. This means the utilization of outpatient sick leave generally runs high among the workers. The union had made this request so that healthcare workers would not have to take unpaid leave if they ran out of sick leave.

Through regular conversations and engagements with members, the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU) has raised some of these concerns with Health Minister Mr. Ong Ye Kung and proposed suggestions to mitigate them.

On Mon 24 Feb, an announcement was made by Mr. Ong last Monday that in the coming days, public hospital and polyclinic workers can now record sick leave as hospitalization leave during this period.

To address the manpower shortage, the authorities are mobilizing the healthcare volunteer corps and seeking help from the Singapore Armed Forces to help address manpower shortages.

Ms. K. Thanaletchimi, president of HSEU, expressed that this provision will allow those who are ill to rest and recover properly. It will also give them peace of mind to go about their duties without worrying about having the annual leave and no pay leave deducted.

She said, “We’re treating the sick – so we have to be well.”

Ms. Thana encouraged those with mild symptoms not to crowd the Accident & Emergency department, which may delay treatment for others.

“We need the cooperation of everyone, including employers, to not insist on asking for MCs. Have a thought for healthcare workers.”

According to Mr. Ong, the ministry will also be pushing out public messages to reiterate these points, especially for employers not requiring medical certificates (MCs) from workers infected with COVID-19 “in the coming days.”

While these measures may not fully resolve the current challenges faced by the healthcare sector, they may provide some respite.

The current surge in daily cases has also put impacted the multi-ministry task force (MTF) plan to change existing COVID-19 safe management measures (SMM). The new SMM was slated to start on 25 Feb 2022.



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