The proportion of doctors and nurses serving the general population has improved in the past five years.

Giving the ratios yesterday, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said Singapore had one doctor serving 520 people last year, an improvement from 620 people in 2007.

Similarly, there was one nurse for 154 people, compared with 205 people in 2007.

She also said in her reply to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) that the pool of professionals working in public health care has gone up to help meet the needs of Singapore's growing and ageing population.

For instance, the number of doctors has risen by more than 50 per cent since 2007, to reach 6,200 last year.

At the same time, the number of nurses has shot up by about 70 per cent, to 21,000.

Dr Khor said the doctor-to-population and nurse-to-population ratios are comparable with those in developed regional economies such as South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan which have similar proportions of elderly people.

The ratios are likely to remain "broadly comparable internationally" even as Singapore's population ages, because the Government expects to expand its pool of health-care professionals by another 20,000 over the next seven years, she added.

Mr Gan also asked if the current health-care workforce is sufficient in the event of a pandemic, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) or bird flu.

His question comes amid the appearance of the deadly new H7N9 bird flu strain in China.

Dr Khor said Singapore has learnt from past outbreaks of Sars, the H1N1 flu and dengue, and has measures in place to deal with a surge in cases.

For instance, if a pandemic occurs, public health-care institutions will cut back on elective surgery, outsource services where possible, bring back temporary health-care support staff and redeploy manpower across the health- care system.