Insubstantial pay and benefits form an image of perceived government and private leaders’ neglect on the aisle of nurses particularly in the implementation of COVID-19 response.
This week, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc., a group of private hospitals, said it was concerned with a possible shortage of manpower as scores of staff resigned to pursue jobs overseas for the legendary greener pastures.
In the past two to three weeks, about five percent of nurses filed resignations because they wanted to work abroad, said PHAPi president Dr. Jose Rene de Grano.
“If we cannot stop this exodus, perhaps in another six months, we might run out of nurses and our health facilities will be crippled,” said De Grano during a televised public briefing.
“That is what we fear because if we are too lenient with letting our healthcare workers leave and we fail to replace them quickly, we might run out of healthcare workers. Our acceptance of patients will be limited,” he said.
Some health workers earlier complained of low pay and poor working conditions.
Earlier on, the group had repeatedly called on the government to look at the plight of nurses, as their salaries and benefits, including the remuneration given by private hospitals as well as security of tenure in public hospitals – admittedly the key reasons why nurses are seeking employment abroad.
Philippine Nurses Association chief Melbert Reyes has said this scenario is sad “because we are experiencing these things but there is no response to that question except to compensate our nurses, give them value.”
On Sunday, Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, acknowledged that some health workers avail themselves of job opportunities abroad because of the attractive pay.
“If we can increase the basic pay of our nurses, they might have second thoughts about leaving the country, because they will feel that with a salary higher than the current rate although not really at par with what’s offered abroad, it’s better to stay here and be with their families,” she said during an interview on Teleradyo.
“But if the difference between the salary here and abroad remains wide, then we’ll really have a hard time keeping our nurses here. We have to accept that they will really get much higher pay abroad, and it’s also really different if they get the chance of working in foreign hospitals, especially in the UK and the US,” she said.
Limpin said that more than the additional benefits, higher basic pay would really matter. And she appealed to hospital administrators to take care of their current staff, noting that their experience in attending to COVID-19 patients makes them extra valuable compared to newly hired staff.
President Rodrigo Duterte in September said the government would look for funds to hire more medical frontliners, as the Philippines battled one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks straining the health care system.
The government has distributed most of the delayed special risk allowance that health workers protested in recent months, said De Grano.
Read him: “There are a few who have not received their allowance, but local governments and the Department of Health are fixing this.”
Meanwhile, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor appealed to Congress for the enactment of a measure providing much better pay for nurses and health frontliners.
Defensor has always been pushing for increased salaries of Filipino nurses and health frontliners.
“No matter what we do in providing scholarships for our students in the healthcare sector, we cannot blame or stop them from leaving if they are offered higher salaries abroad,” Defensor said, chasing that with “The solution is to equal and somehow approximate their salaries to entice them to stay in the country.”
Defensor is the author of House Bill 7933, which seeks to nearly double from P33,575 to P60,901 the starting monthly base pay of nurses employed in Philippine government hospitals.
“We hope that our measure, once enacted, will discourage at least some of our nurses, particularly those with strong social ties here at home, from going abroad,” Defensor said.
Under the bill, the entry-level pay of government nurses shall be bumped up by six notches to Salary Grade 21.
It is not enough that we call these frontliners during this pandemic the unsung heroes. Their work should be appreciated with the right bills.