New retention scheme a ‘reason to stay’ but payouts not substantial enough, say some nurses

New retention scheme a 'reason to stay' but payouts not substantial enough, say some nurses


But Sarah and some nurses CNA spoke to pointed out they have to wait four to six years for each payout and that the incentive does not apply to those in the private healthcare sector.  

Sarah, who has been a nurse for 10 years, acknowledged that the retention scheme serves as an “additional boost” on top of existing benefits. 

But a S$20,000 payout over four years means S$5,000 a year, or just S$417 per month.

This is “close to” the amount a locum or stand-in nurse receives in one shift, Sarah noted. “I feel that it is the main reason why nurses are speaking up; (they do) not consider it a substantial amount,” she said, pointing to comments from fellow nurses on social media. 

To this, SIT’s Assoc Prof Siow said: “It is difficult to put a specific amount on what is considered a sufficient payout for nurses.

“At first pass, the amounts do look generous, but it must be understood that these payouts happen every four to six years,” she said.

“Some nurses may forgo the amounts if they have better opportunities elsewhere or prefer to leave the workforce for personal reasons – such as to take care of family or children – despite the loss of these payouts.”

Janet (not her real name), a home care nurse working at a community care organisation, also told CNA that while she appreciates the Health Ministry’s initiative to retain nurses, she believes it “falls short”.

“Nurses need an annual salary increase with a minimum cap. We are underpaid, considering the hard work we put in to meet patients’ needs and deliver quality care,” said the 36-year-old who has been a nurse for more than 10 years.

Publicly funded community care organisations and social service agencies can also apply to participate in the scheme. They will need to co-fund the awards, with most of the funding coming from the government, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday.

Private hospitals, however, are not included in the scheme. 

“I would be grateful if such schemes are given to private sectors as well. As nurses, be it in the government or private sector, the job is equally stressful and lacks staff welfare,” said Mr Staffan Stewart, who works in the transitional care facility at Raffles Hospital.

“I do hope that private hospital nurses will also be recognised for their hard work,” added the 31-year-old.

Mr Stewart also wanted to see that the welfare of all healthcare workers, and not just nurses, improve gradually. 

“If not, it’s painful to see our locals moving away to other countries just to get the life they are unable to live in Singapore.”

Nurses also told CNA that there is more to retaining the workforce than money.

“Beyond monetary compensation, nurses require adequate rest, a safe working environment, protection from healthcare worker abuse, and opportunities for promotion and career progression within the health organisation,” said Alexandra Hospital nurse Ms Yap.

Likewise, Assoc Prof Siow highlighted that nursing attrition is a multi-faceted issue which “cannot be addressed just by one solution”. 

“The pull factors for remaining in the profession are not entirely monetary. There are other factors that should be considered such as work conditions, passion for the job, regard for the profession, opportunities for upskilling and opportunities for career progression,” she said. 

“Beyond implementing measures to retain nurses, we need to continue efforts to grow the nursing workforce by getting more people to consider nursing as a career.”