MANILA, Philippines – In order to entice Filipino doctors to stay in the country despite the lure of greener pastures abroad, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has filed a bill seeking to increase the salary of physicians and providing them additional benefits.
“Senate Bill No. 319 seeks to address this alarming outflow of doctors and its repercussions by increasing the salary of government physicians and providing additional incentives,” Trillanes, chairman of the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization, said in a statement Sunday.
The Philippines was said to be the second leading exporter of doctors to the world, next only to India, Trillanes said citing a report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The 2007 study, which was done by the Philippine Health Information Network of the Department of Health (DOH), said that “the Philippines has traditionally been a major source of health professionals to many countries because of their fluent English, skills and training, compassions, humaneness and patience in caring.”
“The country is purportedly the leading exporter of nurses to the world (Aiken, 2004) and the second major exporter of physicians (Bach, 2003),” the Philippine Health Information System: Review and Assessment February – July 2007 study said.
It further said that despite the large number of doctors the country is able to churn out, their migration is unparalleled in the history of the country. It was also alarming that doctors were not migrating as physicians but as nurses, the study said.
“Although the country is producing a surplus of health workers for overseas market since the 1960s, the large exodus of nurses in the last four years has been unparalleled in the migration history of the country,” the study said.
“While Filipino physicians have been migrating to the United States since the 1960s and to the Middle East countries in the 1970s in steady outflows, the recent outflows are disturbing because they are no longer migrating as medical doctors but as nurses,” it added.
Trillanes said that public doctors in local government hospitals earn about P26,878 a month at a salary grade of 16 while doctors conferred by the DOH earn P39,493 at a salary grade of 21.
Their low salary was the reason why many doctors are seeking higher-paying jobs abroad, he said.
“This does not do justice to our hardworking doctors who have spent years in their studies and whose duties go beyond the normal eight-hour workload,” he said.
“The exodus of doctors in the last five years is exacting a toll on the country’s already second-rate health service. The ratio of doctor [to] patients in the Philippines is one doctor per 28,493 patients, a far cry from the ideal 1:1000 ratio prescribed by the WHO,” Trillanes pointed out.
In Trillanes proposed legislation, he wants to increase the minimum base pay of doctors to P62,670 or a salary grade of 27. Doctors will also receive an annual loyalty pay of P50,000 for doctors with at least three consecutive years of service and an educational grant not more than P200,000 for those who have served at least five years continuous service.
They will also get monthly transportation allowance of P10,000 to P18,000 depending on the municipality, food allowance of P5,000 to P12,000 per month, and medical allowance of P5,000 to P10,000, Trillanes said.
According to the study, “The Philippine socioeconomic and political situations have not helped much in retaining licensed and skilled nurses and other health professionals in the country.”
It added that “more than 3,500 Filipino doctors have left as nurses since the year 2000.”
“A little more than 1,500 doctors have passed the national nurse licensure examination in 2003 and 2004,” the study said. “An estimated 4,000 doctors are enrolled in nursing schools all over the country,” it added.