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MOH to speed
TCM takes up hiring: 4,500
root at in next 2 years

local hospitals THE Ministry of Health (MOH) has hired 1,100

people since the start of the year and there are
still 2,600 vacancies available now.
In all, MOH will take in 4,500 workers for the
public health-care sector in the next two years
instead of over the next five.
Mrs Wong May Lee, 68, for exam-
Patients often referred ple, found TCM effective in helping her
This change of plan is aimed at opening up
job options for Singaporeans hit by the econom-
regain the use of her left hand, which
by doctors for services was paralysed by a stroke in June
ic downturn, said Health Minister Khaw Boon
Wan yesterday at a dialogue. “I really encourage
to complement 2006.
She said: “My hand was so weak I
Singaporeans – whether you are retrenched or
want to change your career – to consider health
conventional treatment could not even hold a spoon to feed my-
self. My doctor recommended me to
care because it’s a very meaningful job, but of
course, you do need training.”
Hong Hua TCM Medical Centre at The 1,100 recent hires – six in 10 of them Sin-
BY JUDITH TAN AMKH for acupuncture. I have since re- gaporeans – were recruited for nursing, allied
gained some of my strength.” health and administrative positions. About 27
TRADITIONAL Chinese Medicine The 14-year-old Hong Hua was the per cent of the locals were above 40.
(TCM) has dug in at seven hospitals in first TCM clinic to open in a public hos- Ms Chua Siew Tin, 48, was retrenched from
Singapore, with demand for treatment pital. her position as a financial analyst in a multina-
having grown by as many as seven The newest among the TCM cen- tional corporation last month. Feeling helpless,
times at one centre. tres, on the other hand, is the $2.8 mil- she tried for a job across the various sectors. Sin-
The number of patient visits at the lion Bao Zhong Tang TCM Centre in gapore General Hospital took her in as a finance
six public hospitals and one private one SGH, which is barely 11/2 years old. executive almost immediately.
has gone up by between 30 per cent It has so far seen 145,000 patients, Despite taking 30 per cent pay cut, she is
and 750 per cent from the time their including cancer patients, said Ms Ay- grateful for the job.
TCM centres opened. res Lau, its marketing manager. “There are a lot of career advancements in
The on-site TCM centres at six pub- Dr Kong Keng He, who heads the TCM practitioners such as Ms Lim Lay Beng use acupuncture and cupping (above) to treat the health-care sector, so there will be ample op-
lic hospitals – Alexandra Hospital, 12-year-old Complementary Integra- medical conditions such as diabetes. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
portunities to move up the ladder. I also get ex-
Changi General Hospital, Singapore tive Medicine clinic at TTSH, said the posure to a different industry.”
General Hospital (SGH), National Uni- number of patient visits hit nearly “They work closely with their West- Practitioners’ Association, Mr Tan Kee MOH is also funding about 250 training plac-
versity Hospital (NUH), Tan Tock Seng 22,000 last year, up from 6,000 in ern-trained counterparts to provide Huat, was reported as having told the es for Singaporeans making a mid-career
Hospital (TTSH) and Ang Mo Kio Com- 2000. complementary treatments, instilling newspaper that only 776 patients, re- switch. So far, 93 places have been filled.
munity Hospital (AMKH) – provide ac- He said: “The main reason is the in- ferred by their doctors, sought TCM Mr Khaw said the health-care sector has
confidence in patients for the service,”
upuncture and Chinese herbal medi- creased awareness and acceptance of treatment between 2007 and this year. enough jobs for Singaporeans and foreigners and
she said, noting that business grew 30
cine. complementary medicine as an adjunct that it was most important to have the right atti-
per cent between 2007 and last year. Chinese medicine was introduced in
Most times, the patients at these to conventional treatment among mem- tude and the willingness to come forward.
Across the Causeway, TCM provid- the three hospitals in 2007 by the coun-
centres are referred by their Western- bers of the public and doctors.”
ed by in-hospital centres seems to try’s Health Ministry.
trained doctors for treatments that NUH’s surgeons whose patients
complement their ongoing convention- have created less of a ripple. However, the ministry’s traditional
have multiple drug allergies or are in
The New Straits Times reported a and complementary medicine depart-
al treatments.
The most common ailments attend-
too-poor physical shape to withstand
high-risk surgery send them on to the week ago that the TCM divisions of
three hospitals – one in Penang and
ment said its numbers were higher –
more than 14,000 new and follow-up
Racial and religious
ed to are aches and pains – headaches, hospital’s Acupuncture Clinic.
neck and back pain and knee pain from
Some TCM centres have built up are-
as of specialisation. A spokesman for
two in Johor Bahru – did not have any
outpatient units; and each hospital had
cases were seen at the hospitals.
The 14,134 cases in its statistics com-
tension test in June
But these TCM centres also treat pa- the Raffles Chinese Medicine centre in only one TCM cancer specialist to han- prised 6,653 for acupuncture, 6,598 for
dle late-stage cancer patients referred traditional Malay massage and a fur- A NATIONAL exercise will be carried out in June
ralysis caused by strokes, cancer, drug Raffles Hospital, for example, said its to test how well prepared community leaders are
allergies and, in some cases, infertility TCM physicians now treat men with by the hospital’s oncologists. ther 883, for herbal medicine.
in defusing potential racial or religious tensions,
among men. health and fertility problems. The chairman of the Malaysian TCM juditht@sph.com.sg provoked by incidents such as bomb scares or
terrorist attacks.
Chairmen of Inter-Racial and Religious Confi-
workers was racking up bills of more substantial. We’ll think about that; let dence Circles (IRCCs) will be tested on how

Medical cover for foreign than $5,000.

Mr Khaw said it was no longer un-
common for that amount to be exceed-
me discuss with (Acting Manpower)
Minister Gan Kim Yong to see how we
should do that.”
quickly they disseminate information to their re-
ligious and cultural contacts in such situations.
Formed in 2002, IRCCs are led by trained

workers may be raised ed. He noted: “We may have to think

about raising $5,000 to something
else. A lot depends on how much the
Mr Khaw made it clear that the
change would cover all foreign work-
ers, not just maids.
grassroots volunteers. They promote good ties
among religious and racial groups in their neigh-
bourhoods through discussions and activities.
They also coordinate such organisations in
premium increase will be.” “The scheme applies to all work per- keeping the peace during times of crisis.
HEALTH Minister Khaw Boon Wan is even shared his own tale of an employ- He said that when he bought cover- mit holders, so factories and all will be About 87.5 per cent of religious organisations
considering raising the amount of insur- er who had gone to see him. Her Filipi- age of up to $20,000 for his own maid, covered as well,” he said. have become members of IRCCs.
ance that employers must buy for for- no maid had died from tuberculosis af- he found the increase “quite inexpen- Last year, Singapore had 757,000 At a dinner for the 84 IRCC chairmen last
eign workers who are on work permits. ter three weeks in an intensive care sive”. “It was just an extra few dollars work-permit holders, including maids. night, Minister of Community Development,
He said the $5,000 minimum, set at unit (ICU). a month...Pay a few dollars more a When contacted, Madam Margaret Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan thanked
the beginning of last year, might no “For some reason, it was not picked month, you have peace of mind,” he Tan, who pays about $50 a year in in- them for their contributions.
longer be adequate. up at the medical check-up...but what- said. surance premiums for her maid, said “It will not be possible to pre-empt undesira-
He made this point at a dialogue yes- ever it was, the poor lady succumbed Mr Khaw then took a quick survey the existing minimum of $5,000 was ble messages or possible unfortunate misunder-
terday when presented with a scenario to tuberculosis, and spending three of the more than 100 people at the dia- good enough. standings and their potential to incite unrest be-
involving a maid who had incurred weeks in an ICU is very costly,” he logue, asking for a show of hands from Said the 59-year-old executive: tween communities. We must therefore work on
$10,000 in medical expenses while she said. The bill came up to $20,000, he those who supported a move for higher “I’ve had maids for 20 years and not building trust and understanding,” he said.
was covered for only half that amount. added. insurance cover for foreign workers. once have they needed to use their med- He also called on them to work on integrating
Mr Khaw agreed that such cases When the $5,000 threshold was set, More than half raised their hands. ical coverage.” newcomers into Singapore.
were becoming more common and data showed that only one in 10 foreign Seeing the response, he said: “Quite JEREMY AU YONG TESSA WONG