Nurse calls out alleged pay gap between swabbing team and nurses - Alvinology

Nurse calls out alleged pay gap between swabbing team and nurses

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A Singaporean nurse declined gratitude on social media, and called for “tangible appreciation.”

As Singapore’s COVID-19 outbreak raged, the country has been hiring people to administer swab tests and to be on the front lines. Advertisments for positions that don’t discriminate against people with no medical industry background or experience.

Nurse calls out alleged pay gap between swabbing team and nurses - Alvinology

One such advertisment even listed the expected salary of applicants in case they pass the screening process. According to a graphic from the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), an organisation under the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Swabbers can earn $3800 while Swab Assistants earn $3400.

One nurse, however, took to social media to give their opinion on the compensation package that awaits some of the new hires for the Swab Operations Team. The post has since been taken down.

The Singaporean nurse with eleven years of experience said that the compensation package offered by e2i for the Swabbing Operations applicants is such a far cry from what they used to earn as an entry-level nurse.

In their Facebook post, they said,

I am really appalled at how much the government is offering to pay for non-healthcare background people, I do understand and accept that there’s higher risks involved in this application and also appreciate those who stepped forward to do this. However I really want to highlight the under carpet issue of salary differences.

Do you know how much is the average nursing graduate pay? Our first year we are only paid $1,900 as a basic salary. (Perhaps times are better now). Up to 5-6 years, our basic salary has not even reached $3,800.

And yet people with no healthcare background get $3,400/$3,800 immediately. Even the SQ Care Ambassadors get higher pay than our new graduates! Are you saying that our diplomas and degrees are worthless in the usual day? You mean healthcare workers do not face risks on usual day work?

You may say that this is a temporary job and higher risk with less benefits thus need higher compensation.

So I ask, if I apply for this job, do I get higher pay because I have a Degree in Nursing with 11 years experience? If no, then what message are you trying to put across?

I hope after this pandemic, there will be reviews of pay for all healthcare workers. Don’t have to put up a big show of thanking us on social media, but give us tangible appreciation in our daily work. This is reality.

from defunct Facebook post

According to the post, the nurse said that when they started work eleven years ago, they was not even paid $2,000. Nurse’s basic salaries allegedly did not reach $3,8000 even with 5-6 years experience.

The nurse also pointed out that Swabbers and Swabbing Assistants, on the other hand, would get as much as $3,800 as starting pay. Despite the definitively hazardous job, they argued that nurses are just as much as risk as these people working in the Swabbing Operations Team.

The Singaporean nurse then asked if they would receive higher pay if they applied for this job if they brought their eleven years of nursing experience to the table. In the end, they wanted people and authorities to stop giving useless thanks for their efforts through social media and instead provide “tangible appreciation.” An employment attorney was contacted by some employees for guidance.

How much do nurses earn in Singapore?

According to various websites that allow for the reporting of average salaries of different professions, the salary of nurses may even be lower than what the Swabbing Operations Team is offering.

Glassdoor, a worldwide employment portal that has an app and website for professionals and employers, listed that a nurse usually earns $3000 a month in Singapore. Some job listings on the site have shown that starting pay could be as low as $2150. This value, however, only comes from the voluntary, unverified reporting on 13 people who declared themselves nurses.

Nurse calls out alleged pay gap between swabbing team and nurses - Alvinology
screen capture from Glassdoor website

On the Indeed website, the average salary of a registered nurse is $2,619. This report, on the other hand, comes from the voluntary, unverified information of 2,382 people who claim to be in a nursing position.

Nurse calls out alleged pay gap between swabbing team and nurses - Alvinology
screen capture from Indeed website

Swabbing Operation Team requirements

According to the e2i website, these are the job requirements for anyone who wants to be part of the Swabbing Operations Team:

  • Minimum N Level/ WPLN5
  • Medically fit with no history of chronic diseases
  • Proficient in English and Mother Tongue (Chinese, Malay and/or Tamil), fluency in dialect is a bonus

What will the swabbers do?

According to a report from TODAY Online, the Swabbing Assistant mostly performs clerical and cleaning duties. These people would be verifying identities, double checking results and data, briefing patients on procedure and other information, maintaining the sanitation of the swabbing areas before and after each patient enters, and assisting the actual Swabbers.

As for the Swabbers, they would be responsible for determining other symptoms based on a checklist, performing the actual swab, ensuring one meter safety distance protocols, coordinate with doctors based on new findings and symptoms of the patient, and ensuring the swabs are labeled properly and mounted on the UTM rack.

They would be required to work six hours a day for six months, with an option to extend up to three more months.

Nurse shortage

As early as 2016, reports of a nursing shortage loomed in the Singapore medical industry. A report from The Straits Times in 2016 mentioned that the country would need 30,000 new medical workers by 2020–and this was without the battle against COVID-19. The need was primarily for taking care of Singapore’s aging generation.

Header image from Shutterstock.

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