It's wrong not to recognise qualifications of some foreign doctors
The Straits Times reported on March 8th that the Health Ministry would recruit more medical specialists. It intends to increase the number of foreign medical schools that Singapore recognises from the current 71 institutions.
Do we really have a shortage of doctors or we are being short-sighted? There are many foreign-trained doctors who are not allowed to practise medicine in Singapore.Well tell me what's new? It's the same all around the world. Immigrant doctors in Canada are driving taxis. While I agree this is not an ideal way to utilize our resources, the problem is not unique to Singapore. Having said that I agree we should make the pathway for foreign doctors to practise in Singapore more transparent.
They are qualified and experienced doctors. The reason they cannot practise in Singapore is that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) does not recognise the universities they graduated from.Again. This is a charge that can be directed against every first world country!
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan realises this is a mistake. The doctors we need are already in Singapore but we are pretending that we need to look farther to get them. Is this necessary?
What does Dr Soon mean by this? That there are many immigrant foreign doctors in Singapore who are unable to practice medicine? I was not aware that Singapore allowed foreigners to migrate to Singapore without finding a job. This is interesting. Or what does Dr Soon mean exactly?
In the USA, a foreign-trained doctor can take the USMLE examination and after three years of residency, they can practise medicine just like an American-trained doctor. Why is the SMC not operating like the US?
Well easier said than done. The USMLEs are on aspect of it. But it is not that east to get a residency position. Dr Soon makes it seem as if it is a breeze to be a foreign medical graduate and get to practice medicine in the USA. This is certainly not the case. For the USA, many foreign graduates end up working for FREE (yes FREE) in hospitals for 1-2 years to try and fight for a residency position. Not everyone can afford that luxury. The situation in Canada is no different. And neither is it for Australia. I can personally attest to this. So while Singapore should have an SMC exam, I see no reason why we should make it so easy for foreign doctors to gain full registration to practice in Singapore when their own countries do not make it easy for foreign graduates to practice there. As it is there are already foreign doctors working in Singapore. More below.....
Why is our medical system so rigid and not forward-looking? Could it be that the SMC is trying to protect the Singaporean doctors from external competition? Isn't it more beneficial for the patients when we have the best doctors to treat us? Doesn't competition give us the best doctors?Again those charges can be made to all other first world countries! Dr Soon, please name me a first world country where it is EASY and SIMPLE for foreign medical graduates to gain full medical registration to practise?
Will the council come out with a complete list of the medical schools that it will recognise?
Russia has very advanced medical science and technology. The Russians have pioneered surgeries such as eyesight correction for shortsighted people and extension of human height by elongating the leg bones, etc. Why shouldn't the Russian medical schools be on the SMC's list?
Is language barrier for some of these foreign-trained doctors a problem? In fact, their foreign language ability may give them an edge over the locally trained doctors when treating foreign patients.
Not all doctors from well-known medical schools are good doctors, and not all doctors from not well-known medical schools are bad doctors. The list of foreign medical schools recognised by the Singapore Medical Council does not guarantee us anything.
We should have something like the USMLE to evaluate our medical doctors to guarantee our standard.
Dr Soon Boon Yi
Now I agree with Dr Soon's call for a streamlined system for foreign doctors. I don't think we should deny the deserving good doctors a place to practise in Singapore purely because they are foreigners. I feel many other countries should also open their systems.
However Dr Soon might want to note that there are already a number of foreign doctors practising in Singapore. We have numerous doctors from the Philipines, Nepal, Pakistan, and India working in hospitals and polyclinics.
I believe the driving force behing these schemes is more cost and money. The foreign doctors are paid very little compared to their fully registered counterparts. So one would say they are more cost effective. However I have heard from registrars of polyclinics that some of these foreign doctors do not even know how to manage common chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Of course at the other end of the spectrum we have eminent professors from abroad who have no problems getting full registration to practise and even head departments in our local hospitals.
This leads me to conclude that at the end of the day, MOH only wants 2 types of foreign doctors. The cheap ones and the damn famous and good ones. This is prudent of course if you consider the best interests for Singapore. However what is lacking I suppose is the transparency in the decision process.
Clearly the decision process has nothing to do purely with medical competency alone. So will we get our wish for a SMC exam? I doubt it.
By the way I would hope Dr Soon could clarify what is it that he is calling for? Bear in mind that foreign doctors are already allowed to practise in Singapore based on different criteria. Perhaps Dr Soon does not know this. Or does he have personal vested interest in writing this letter?