Hontiveros tells IATF to reconsider ban on health workers deployment
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to reconsider the travel ban imposed on health workers, whose employments are based outside of the country, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Hontiveros said that she understands the need to prioritize the country’s health care system but health workers who’ve finalized their requirements for employment abroad got stuck in limbo because of the deployment ban.
“Hindi lang oras ang inilaan ng ating mga kababayan para lang makapag-abroad. Marami ang nangutang, nagbenta ng ari-arian para lang masuportahan ang pangarap. They must be allowed to leave,” said Hontiveros in a letter sent to IATF chairperson and Health Secretary Francisco Duque and IATF co-chair Sec. Karlo Nograles.
(It’s not just time that our countrymen sacrificed for their opportunity to go abroad, many of them accrued debts, sold belongings just to fulfill their dream.)
The IATF-MEID Resolution No. 64 imposes an overseas deployment ban for medical and allied health workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and this has kept, Hontiveros said, thousands of medical practitioners unable to tend to their current or future employments abroad.
“Kaisa ng labor groups at nurses organizations, I reiterate their request that the deployment ban be lifted. Hayaan nating makalipad ang health workers na ilang buwan nang hindi makapaghanapbuhay,” said Hontiveros.
(In support of labor groups and nurses organizations, I reiterate their request that the deployment ban be lifted. Let us allow our health workers, who have been out of work for months, to go abroad.)
Instead of a travel ban, Hontiveros said that the government should implement higher wages and better working conditions for health workers so that they’d be encouraged to work locally and not get enticed to work abroad.
The senator cited data from the Department of Labor and Employment that nurses, at entry level, earn P8,000 to P13,500 a month.
“Paano ito makabubuhay ng isang pamilya? Tayo rin ang may pinakamababang pasahod sa health care workers sa Southeast Asia. Hindi pwedeng pipigilan natin silang umalis, pero hindi natin sila bibigyan ng dahilan para mag-stay,” said Hontiveros.
(How can this support a family? We have the lowest pay for health care workers in Southeast Asia. We can’t prevent them from leaving, but we should also give them a reason to stay.)
The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act has P13.5 billion allocated for the continuous employment of Human Resources for Health and additional benefits for health care workers, but, Hontiveros said, the law should allow medical practitioners who have secured employment abroad to fly overseas.
She added that the proper implementation of the Bayanihan Act will invalidate the need for such a ban and help the Philippines raise the line and capacitate the health care system with less nurses, doctors, and allied workers to go overseas.
“Dapat taasan ang sweldo, bigyan ng overtime pay at palawigin ang kanilang benepisyo. Kung naaalagaan ang kapakanan nila, hindi na kailangan ng deployment ban sa mga susunod na taon. Mas mapapalakas din natin ang ating pampublikong kalusugan dahil mas maraming health workers ang pipiliing manatili sa bansa,” said Hontiveros.
(Salaries of health care workers should be increased, give them overtime pay and give them better benefits. When their welfare is taken care of, the need for a deployment ban is not needed for the later years. We can also strengthen the public health system because more health care workers are choosing to stay.)
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