Insights into medical workforce trends in Singapore
Dr John Bethell talks to our recruiters about Singapore’s state-of-the-art medical facilities and what it’s like for doctors to live and work in this unique tropical island state.
I had often waited in transit in Singapore, riding the travelators at Changi Airport en route to and from Europe. But a few years ago I decided to stop, meet the locals and have a look around Singapore’s medical facilities.
I remember coming away with distinct hospital envy. The new facilities were state-of-the-art. The old ones, exuding colonial elegance, were lovingly refurbished… and state-of-the-art. And that’s just the public hospitals. Everything seemed to work like clockwork and the medical equipment was …you’ve guessed it, state-of-the-art.
Since then, Wavelength has helped relocate many specialist doctors to this unique island state.
Preferred supplier of specialist doctors
We have been working with Singapore hospitals for quite some time now, and we are curious to find out what has changed and what the predictions are for the future. So we had a chat with our recruiters who have helped Doctors find medical jobs in Singapore.
“Singapore has changed a lot,” one recruiter tells me. “Local graduate numbers have increased, so there’s less of a reliance on overseas doctors now.”
I wonder if this means less work for us, but our recruiters inform me otherwise.
“Far from it,” they say. “Focus has shifted from 'get us a doctor' to 'get us the right doctor', which means we're much more targeted when finding a doctor perfectly suited to a role.”
Our recruiters have worked hard to build relationships with the hospitals in Singapore over the years, and it really helps with getting things done. “There’s more trust now, in that the hospitals feel comfortable calling us directly about key roles coming up, often before they’re even advertised.”
Our recruiters' patience has paid off and they have recently been given preferred supplier status to source specialist doctors for Singapore. Part of the reason for this is their expertise in getting doctors into the country with the help of our in-house regulatory and migration team. “It used to all be paper-based, but everything is now online which massively reduces the timeframes,” they tell me.
“We’ve walked many doctors through the process so can easily make sure everything stays on track.”
A day in the life of a medical specialist
So which overseas doctors tend to get work in Singapore I ask?
“Many of our doctors have previous ties to Asia. Typically, they’re experts in their medical specialty or have strong academic and teaching credentials,” our recruiters say. “It’s common for them to have worked or trained in a few different countries.”
"The case mix is similar but the acuity is higher, making it an interesting and rewarding job clinically."
I ask about the work conditions doctors new to Singapore will encounter.
“The first thing they will notice is that there’s a very busy case load. One Emergency Specialist had 500 patients a day coming through his department. The case mix is similar but the acuity is higher, making it an interesting and rewarding job clinically.
“Generally the ratio of clinical to non-clinical work is much higher than someone coming from overseas might be used to.
“One thing that many doctors are impressed by is the emphasis on education and CPD. Anything that’s seen to bring new skills back to the hospital is strongly encouraged which favours those that put a high importance on professional development.”
Great quality of Life
I ask our recruiters what doctors report back in terms of differences to their quality of life in Singapore.
“Whilst they’re busy at work, downtime tends to be quality time,” they observe. “Thanks to short commutes, long daylight hours and the ease of securing live-in help, home time is more likely to be family time as opposed to time cooking dinner.”
Our recruiters tell me that cars are expensive but public transport is cheap and very efficient. One doctor takes Uber to and from work every day. “It costs him $10 for a 15-minute commute each way,” one recruiter points out. “He used to take the train in Sydney for the same cost - only it would take 45 minutes to get to work.”
“Cost of living works out as much the same as in Australia, but overall saving potential is greater."
Doctors with families tend to live in cluster houses, a sort of townhouse with shared facilities such as a swimming pool and play area, which offer a good combination of privacy and community. Singapore is fantastic for kids with organised events every weekend and loads of theme parks, the zoo, as well as Sentosa Island.
We briefly touch on finance. In Singapore, doctors earn much of their income from performance-related bonuses, a concept that might be alien to anyone who has worked in other public health systems.
It’s the low-income tax rate (20%) that’s likely to make the biggest difference. “Cost of living works out as much the same as in Australia, but overall saving potential is greater.”
The Future for Singapore
I ask our recruiters about trends in the Singapore health scene.
“Everything is growing,” they say. “The population continues to grow thanks to migrant workers. And the population is ageing, so there are two new teaching hospitals being built in the next five years to accommodate this.”
“We already have trials of lifting robots and automated meal delivery facilities in some hospitals. Patients order by iPad and their food is delivered by robot - on time.”
Singapore is generally on the forefront of technology. So, apart from providing brand new medical equipment across the board, hospitals are leading the way in other innovations designed to make healthcare delivery more efficient.
So what challenges lie ahead for our recruiters working with Doctors interested in Singapore?
“It’s an exciting time to be working with such professional doctors and clients,” she tells me. “The biggest challenge is always about finding the right doctors for the range of medical roles I’m working on.”
Register today to have a confidential discussion about how we can help you find your next rewarding doctor job and discuss your interest in jobs for doctors in Singapore. Search all of our job opportunities here.
Dr John Bethell graduated from Aberdeen Medical School in 1990 and worked as a doctor in both the UK and Australia, launching Wavelength with co-founder Claire Ponsford in 1999. As a pioneer and market leader of medical recruitment in Australia Dr Bethell has seen the industry grow and mature. After two decades of helping doctors find work and healthcare employers find doctors, he sees the medical workforce world from a unique perspective.