Cow Beh Cow Bu


If Singapore is having a shortage of doctors, why shouldn’t we train more locals to be doctors then, rather than hire foreigners to fill the gap?

The sad fact of our medical scene as it stands — the number of foreign doctors has spiked, while Singaporeans who aspire to join the medical profession are being turned away.

Let’s see how the figures stand:

New doctor registrations at SMC for full and conditional licences:

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Singaporeans 227 169 183 200 211 233 264 277 275 331
Foreigners 134 108 127 115 215 211 366 427 417 484
Total 361 277 310 315 426 444 630 704 692 815
Singaporeans 63% 61% 59% 63% 50% 52% 42% 39% 40% 41%
Foreigners 37% 39% 41% 37% 50% 48% 58% 61% 60% 59%

This chart is courtesy of TR Emeritus, which also notes that after 2010, the Singapore Medical Council stopped publishing the number of new doctor registrants by citizenship.

These figures beg several questions:

(1) Is the local medical fraternity an exclusive old boy’s club, where membership is controlled and deliberately limited to a select few so they can be bestowed better privileges? If this is the case, then meritocracy and social mobility in Singapore is going to the dogs. Even if a common working class man works hard and performs well, his access to top-grade opportunities remains closed, simply because of social connections. The majority of Singaporeans ARE that common working class man (and women lah, of course).

(2) Are local simply not good enough, such that increasing the intake of local medical students will severely dilute the quality of medical care and Singapore’s reputation as a medical hub? This considering that Singapore students consistently rank amongst the world’s best, and the government touts our education system as amongst the world’s best.

(3) Is the Singapore government unfairly depriving Singaporeans of better prospects? Is the government afraid of losing money by giving more subsidies to local students, only to have leave the public service at the end of their bond? Or is the government afraid they will emigrate and practise medicine overseas? Well gahmen, foreigner doctors come from abroad too, and many of them will eventually return. Wouldn’t it be better to promote our Singapore brand abroad through our home-grown professionals?

redwire tan tock seng

What would philanthropist Tan Tock Seng say and do today if he were alive and kicking?  The trend of exclusive local medical school intake numbers has been going on for a long time. Far too long. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has much to answer for.

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