September 1, 2022

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Marcos plans to deploy more nurses overseas

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. told a nurses’ organization on Thursday that he plans to allow more nurses to work overseas, marking a further easing on mobility restrictions imposed on the profession during the pandemic. 

The government will also strive “to improve opportunities domestically,” Mr. Marcos said at a gathering organized by the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA).

In December, the Philippines raised its limit for nurse deployments to 7,000 after setting a cap of 5,000 in 2020 to head off a shortage of medical workers during the pandemic.

The President also backed the passage of a law improving the profession’s domestic career prospects and access to “relevant nursing education.”

“I have taken special note of the clamor to address issues in the nursing profession by the passage of the new Philippine Nursing Practice Act,” Mr. Marcos said in his speech.

As the healthcare system came under strain during the pandemic, hospitals faced potential walkouts by overworked personnel.

“Among the commonly cited reasons for the resignation was low wages,” physician and researcher Rowalt Alibudbud said in a study published by the Journal of Global Health in May.

Mr. Marcos promised to address the wage gap between nurses in state hospitals and those in the private sector and distribute healthcare workers more evenly across the country by addressing issues like health facilities, benefits, and security of tenure. 

“Let us join hands to maintain our country’s position as the gold standard when it comes to providing healthcare workers to hospitals and health facilities globally,” he added.

Entry-level nurses working in public hospitals start with a monthly salary of P33, 575, while those in the private sector may receive as little as P8,000, according to Mr. Alibudbud, the health researcher.

“These wages may not be enough to cover the cost of living in the Philippines,” he said. “Some of the nurses even go to work without benefits and hazard pay, despite the heightened health risks and threats during the pandemic.”

The PNA has a membership roll of about 40,000.

Last month, the Philippine leader proposed a “ladderized” program laying out a more attractive career path for nurses.

Fifty-one percent of about 617,000 licensed nurses in the Philippines have migrated while only 28% or about 172,000 were active in both the private and public sectors, the Palace said in a statement last month, citing data from the Department of Health. It added that 21% “are working in areas other than healthcare.”

In July, the Commission on Higher Education lifted a ban on the opening of new nursing undergraduate programs.

The ban was imposed in 2011 due to an “oversupply” that left graduates hard-pressed to find work. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza