PM Lee thanks healthcare workers 'constantly on the front lines' in Covid-19 battle
The professionalism and commitment of the healthcare workers in Singapore was a key reason that the country retained a degree of normalcy during the two extraordinary Covid-19 years, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (April 24).
Speaking at the Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) Lecture and Formal Dinner 2022, PM Lee paid tribute to the more than 62,000 healthcare workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic.
This came ahead of the Republic lifting most of its Covid-19 restrictions and transitioning to living with the coronavirus on Tuesday.
"They were stretched to the limit, but maintained the highest standards," PM Lee said at the event held at Shangri-La Singapore. "They were constantly on the front lines, determined and resilient, even at the start when we understood little of the virus.
He added that doctors, nurses and other volunteers were "fearless" in executing their duties in the early days of the pandemic when outbreaks occurred in many migrant worker dormitories.
Healthcare workers were also among the first to brook the wearing of full personal protective equipment for entire days, and among the last to cease rostered routine Covid-19 tests.
"These two years have been challenging for them, and such a pace is clearly unsustainable in normal times. So we must continue our efforts across the board - at the institutions, clusters, ministry and also in the community - to prevent fatigue and burnout among our healthcare workers," PM Lee said.
In the past two years, many healthcare workers were unable to take leave and worked long hours every day, often redeployed at short notice to new roles.
Studies of healthcare workers showed signs of increased burnout and psychological distress. Resignation rates went up, with 1,500 people quitting in the first half of last year compared to a pre-pandemic annual average of 2,000.
With the coronavirus now abating, staff have begun to be rostered for leave.
PM Lee said the authorities have done their best to give healthcare workers some respite and breaks from their duties to recover and recharge.
He added: "We must take good care of their welfare and well-being, if we expect them to continue doing their best for all of us.