Group to gov’t: Hire Filipino nurses, ditch ‘volunteerism scheme’
MANILA, Philippines — A group of Filipino nurses has asked the government to drop its call for volunteerism and instead do a “mass hiring” to ensure nurses are given proper income and benefits.
The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) said the country has around 200,000 unemployed nurses that the government could employ so they could be given the correct compensation as well as security of tenure.
“When they are offered the volunteerism scheme, it deprives them of their basic rights to just compensation and benefits,” argued FNU President Maristela Abejonar during an interview with ANC on Tuesday. “With [volunteerism], there is no [employer-employee] relationship.”
Abejonar noted that they are pushing for mass hiring because volunteers are allegedly being asked to sign a waiver, which states that if they contract the novel coronavirus, “the Department of Health has no responsibility for them.”
The waiver also supposedly states that if a volunteer nurse gets infected, he or she will be given P100,000 financial assistance while the family of the volunteer who will succumb to the disease will be offered P1,000,000.
“The [FNU’s] stand here, is that instead of a reactive measure to provide them with these benefits, why not invest now for a more proactive approach,” Abenojar noted.
However, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on March 30 denied that DOH is asking volunteers to sign waivers in relation to contracting the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
Abenojar also asserted that mass hiring of nurses is “strategic” since it also addresses the shortage of health workers in the country, a national problem even before the pandemic.
“The shortage of health manpower in the country, especially nurses, has been existing for several years now even before the outbreak of pandemic COVID-19, it is already a problem. It is only aggravated – severely aggravated – by the numbers of cases we are catering to now on COVID-19,” she said.
“So even when the pandemic has been resolved in the country, then we [will] have adequate personnel to still deliver quality services expected from them,” she added.
A study conducted by the Philippine Nurses Association in 2017 showed that there were 31,396 nurses working in 800 public hospitals nationwide, 35,365 in 1,172 private hospitals, and 23,547 in community health centers.
The World Health Organization recommends that there should at least be 45 health workers for every 10,000 persons. In the Philippines, however, the ratio is only 19 health workers per 10,000 people.
Abenojar’s call for action comes after the Inter-Agency Task Force heeded Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. appeal to allow Filipino health workers to return to their jobs abroad.
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